New Pool of Neural Stem Cells Found in Brain Meninges Could Lead to New Therapies for MS, Other Diseases

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stem cells in meninges

Researchers have found neural stem cells (immature cells that can become neurons) in the meninges of the brain, a three-layer structure that protects the nervous system, according to results of a new study.

The discovery of this pool of stem cells in the adult brain opens new possibilities for the treatment of diseases that are characterized by brain damage and neuronal loss, including multiple sclerosis (MS).

The study, “Neurogenic Radial Glia-Like Cells In Meninges Migrate And Differentiate Into Functionally Integrated Neurons In The Neonatal Cortex,” published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, was conducted by a team of international researchers from several countries.

The adult nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is surrounded and protected by three membranes called the meninges (dura mater, arachnoid mater, and pia mater). Neural stem cells are produced during embryonic development. According to a news release, scientists believed for decades that in the adult brain, these cells existed only within the brain tissue, making their access complicated.

Now, researchers found that the meninges also store a pool of neural stem cells, showing that these membranes can be a source of newly produced neurons in the adult brain. This finding is of great importance considering that many diseases, such as MS, result from neuronal loss, and support the idea that the adult brain has a certain capacity to regenerate and heal itself.

To demonstrate the presence of neuronal progenitor cells in the meninges, the team used novel cutting-edge techniques, such as single-cell RNA sequencing, which is able to identify cells based on their unique expression profile of RNA molecules.

The team believes the discovery of neural stem cells in the meninges can be applied to the clinical environment in the future, provided some questions are answered. The questions include how these neural stem cells in the meninges become different types of neurons, and whether researchers can distinguish them to replace the dying neurons in MS.

More studies are warranted to understand whether it’s possible to “hijack” the dividing capacity of neural stem cells to restore neurons in MS and other neurodegenerative disorders, and to understand if these cells can be isolated from the meninges at birth and stored for later use.

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3 comments

  1. Nick says:

    Similarly there has been a recent discovery of a neuro repair mechanism found in cortical cells. The TED Talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/jocelyne_bloch_the_brain_may_be_able_to_repair_itself_with_help presents this discovery by Jocelyne Bloch.

    Bloch bio
    Swiss neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch is an expert in deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation for movement disorders. Her recent work focuses on cortical cells, called doublecortin, related to neurogenesis and brain repair. In collaboration with Jean François Brunet and others, she is pioneering the development of adult brain cell transplantation for patients with stroke, using their own stem cells. She aims at gathering all these novel therapeutic strategies under a common umbrella that will optimize treatment options for patients suffering from neurological impairments. She is in charge of the functional neurosurgery unit at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).

  2. Roger Mooberry says:

    This article is well written, but I don’t understand, in the last sentence, why the interest in harvesting from the meninges at birth? The entire article focuses on the presence of stem cells in adult meninges and the more readily accessible nature of those cells than was previously believed. Then, in the last sentence, the article changes to isolating stem cells from the meninges at birth and storing for later use. I thought the gist of the article was that the cells were available in adults for use in adults. Kind of a confusing conclusion to the article.

    • Joana Fernandes, PhDJoana Fernandes, PhD says:

      Hi Roger!
      I think the idea of isolating these cells is to preserve them for future therapies in case the donor may need them later. They wouldn’t probably remove all stem cells, of course, just the necessary amount to be able to culture and replicate them later, if needed. There is increasing evidence that it may be possible to induce stem cells to become a certain type of neurons in culture that can then be transferred to the brain. This way, instead of hoping the patients’ stem cells will become the exact type of neurons they need, scientists can help them by giving them directly to the brain.

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