A novel pathway of stem cell activity in human brain that represents potential targets of brain injuries affecting newborns has been identified by researchers at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. The recent study, which raises new questions of how the brain evolves, is published in the current issue of Nature, one of the world’s most cited scientific journals.
Nader Sanai, MD, director of Barrow’s Brain Tumor Research Center, led this study, which is the first developmental study of human neural stem cells in a region of the brain called the subventricular zone, the tissue structure in which brain stem cells reside. Also participating in the study were researchers from University of California San Francisco and the University of Valencia in Spain.
The findings revealed that there is a pathway of young migrating neurons targeting the prefrontal cortex of the human brain in the first few months of life. After the first year of life, the subventricular zone of the brain slows down, tapering production of new brain cells by the time a child is 18-months and then to nearly zero by age two. This revelation settles conflicting prior reports that suggested that human neural stem cell cells remain highly active into adulthood.