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BRIEFLY

Humans can make new brain cells

February 19, 2007|From Times wire reports

New evidence shows that the human brain can manufacture fresh brain cells, researchers have found in a study that may lead to better ways to treat brain damage and disease.

Scientists had known that other animals, such as rats and mice, make new brain cells throughout their lives, and there had been indirect evidence that humans beings can too.

Humans have far more developed brains, so searching for these cells has been harder than it was in rodents. But using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans and electron microscope images of tissue donated from the brains of people who died, Maurice Curtis of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Peter Eriksson of Sahlgrenska Academy in Goteborg, Sweden, and colleagues found the elusive cells.

Just as in mice and rats, these cells are born in one part of the brain and then migrate to the olfactory bulb, where smells are processed. They mature into neurons on the way.

In animals, they said, brain damage prompts the birth of new cells. "Our study provides the foundation for this possibility in the adult human brain," they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.

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