Stimulating a protein on the surface of the brain's stem cells helps rats recover after a stroke, US researchers have found. The discovery suggests that in humans it could be possible to provoke the body's own stem cells into repairing an injury, rather than laboriously growing and transplanting new cells.
Researchers believe that many of the body's tissues harbour stem cells capable of dividing to make new tissue. But some of these are recalcitrant and do not naturally divide to repair damage wreaked by severe injuries such as stroke or spinal-cord damage.
Ronald McKay and his colleagues at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, have now shown that one protein, called Notch, can boost the survival of three different types of stem cell. Notch sits on cell surfaces and is vital for the correct growth of embryos.