UC Irvine researchers use transplanted neurons to rejuvenate mouse brains

As you get older, your brain grows less nimble, much like the rest of your body. But researchers at UC Irvine say that they completed an intriguing mouse study that demonstrated there may be a way to rejuvenate the brain, restoring its ability to make quick changes in neural pathways and synapses that would help fight brain disorders.

To do this, the investigators transplanted neurons that express GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is believed to play a key role among some 40% of all synapses. In the mouse study, the team says that the transplanted GABA neurons helped restore "heightened plasticity that allowed for vigorous rewiring of the adult brain. In a sense, old brain processes became young again."

In specific, the neurons were transplanted into the brains of adult amblyopic mice suffering from a visual deficit triggered by impaired vision. The transplants helped retrain their minds during a critical period.

UCI's Melissa Davis

"Several weeks after transplantation, when the donor animal's visual system would be going through its critical period, the amblyopic mice started to see with normal visual acuity," said Melissa Davis, a postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study.

"These experiments make clear that developmental mechanisms located within these GABA cells control the timing of the critical period," said Sunil Gandhi, an assistant professor of neurobiology & behavior.

This kind of an approach, while extremely early in the preclinical sphere, could one day have applications that apply to brain disorders like schizophrenia and autism, they say.

- here's the release

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