The adult mammalian CNS shows a very limited capacity to regenerate after injury. However, endogenous precursors, or stem cells, provide a potential source of new neurons in the adult brain. Here, we induce the birth of new corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN), the CNS neurons that die in motor neuron degenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and that cause loss of motor function in spinal cord injury. We induced synchronous apoptotic degeneration of CSMN and examined the fates of newborn cells arising from endogenous precursors, using markers for DNA replication, neuroblast migration, and progressive neuronal differentiation, combined with retrograde labeling from the spinal cord. We observed neuroblasts entering the neocortex and progressively differentiating into mature pyramidal neurons in cortical layer V. We found 20-30 new neurons per mm3 in experimental mice vs. 0 in controls. A subset of these newborn neurons projected axons into the spinal cord and survived >56 weeks. These results demonstrate that endogenous precursors can differentiate into even highly complex long-projection CSMN in the adult mammalian brain and send new projections to spinal cord targets, suggesting that molecular manipulation of endogenous neural precursors in situ may offer future therapeutic possibilities for motor neuron degenerative disease and spinal cord injury.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Nov 16 2004|
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