Brain stem cells are alerted by inflammation caused by bacterial infections in any part of the body and are prepared for activation, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Valencia in Spain.
Cells have a limited life span and when they are damaged or killed through infection or injury or otherwise reach end of life they must be replaced. Stem cells are cells that can transform into any cell in the body and are critical for cell renewal throughout life.
Stem cells are located in specific locations in bodily tissues and they are known to interact with other cells within their local microenvironment. Evidence is now emerging suggesting interactions are not always local. The University of Valencia study demonstrated brain stem cells can respond to changes that occur in other parts of the body.
In their study on mice, the researchers found that brain stem cells are prepared for activation in response to an infection in any part of the body. The research team, led by Isabel Fariñas, professor of Cell Biology in the University of Valencia Molecular Neurobiology group, verified that a bacterial infection in any part of the body can temporarily activate brain stem cells to prepare them to become new neurons through TNF-α receptor signaling. If required, the brain stem cells will differentiate. If not, they will return to their quiescent state when the inflammation subsides.
Inflammation is a defense mechanism that provides protection from infection and injury, helping to rid the body of pathogens and heal and repair damaged tissue; however, chronic inflammation can have a negative effect on organs in the body and is involved in many diseases. Treatment often involves controlling inflammation; however, relatively little is known about the role inflammation plays in the regulation of stem cells.
“The work allows us to better understand the relationships between stem cells and the systemic environment, that is, the rest of the organism, as knowledge on the subject is very limited,” said Isabel Fariñas. “We are used to stem cells responding to their closest microenvironment, but evidence is beginning to emerge showing that they can respond to what is happening in any part of the body thanks to molecules that are distributed through the circulatory system.”
You can read more about the study in the paper – Adult Neural Stem Cells Are Alerted by Systemic Inflammation through TNF-α Receptor Signaling – which was recently published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2020.10.016