Tracking Neural Stem Cells With MRI

From Science Daily: Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have found a way to track neural stem cells using MRI; specifically, they tracked newly born neurons in the adult rat brain, which migrate a fair distance to their destination before incorporating themselves into the nervous system.

There’s a protein called ferritin that binds to iron in cells. These researchers created a virus containing the ferritin gene and used it to insert extra copies of the gene into the particular cells they were targeting (neural stem cells, or neuroblasts). With extra copies of the gene, the cells produced extra ferritin, and ended up collecting extra iron. MRI machines rely on magnetic fields for imaging; the accumulation of iron in neuroblasts disrupted the magnetic field around them, making them appear distinct. 

This is apparently the first time researchers have been able to image neuroblasts in real time, since other common methods of visualizing cells don’t work for cells deep inside the brain, encased in the skull. 

As you may know, it was long thought that no new neurons were ever created in adult human brains. More recently, it was discovered that neuroblasts were in fact created in the brain throughout life, albeit in a very limited capacity, and much is still to be learned about them. This new technique for imaging neuroblast migration could prove very useful in understanding and controlling regeneration in the adult brain, a very tricky and important subject. 

Whoa, I didn’t quote the article at all. Here, courtesy of Science Daily:

The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health funded this research.

Crisis averted. Thanks SD!


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