PerspectiveNeuroscience

Neural Stem Cells, Excited

Science  29 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1534-1535
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237576

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Summary

Although the brain is generally considered a terminally differentiated organ, new nerve cells are made every day through a process called “adult neurogenesis,” which occurs in specialized regions like the hippocampal dentate gyrus (1). Stem cells in the brain sample electrical signals (activity) from neighboring neurons, deciding which genes to express and which signaling pathways to launch toward developing their own neuronal identity. Why would stem cells be able to respond to exogenous neuronal electrical activity, which can be considered a highly specialized function? Indeed, it seems counterintuitive insofar as one of the defining functions of all stem cells is to actively maintain the undifferentiated state.