FRIDAY, Aug. 1, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- There's evidence that the adult human brain has the ability to grow new neurons, say researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.
The study included nine people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and a control group of four healthy people. In MS, the immune system destroys the myelin sheaths that surround and protect nerves. When the myelin is destroyed, the nerves misfire, and nerve impulses can be slowed or disrupted.
The researchers analyzed neurons in normal subcortical white matter and acute and chronic demyelinated brain lesions, and found that neurons which occupy white matter are also destroyed during the demyelination process.
However, the team also found that in a small percentage of old MS lesions, white matter neurons were increased by 72 percent compared to normal brain regions. In addition, these interneurons appeared to be fully developed.
"Our study suggests that demyelinated tissues produce signals that can enhance the generation of new neurons in damaged areas of the brain. Based on our findings, there is enough evidence to support the idea that new neurons can re-grow in multiple sclerosis lesions," research leader Bruce Trapp, neurosciences chair at Lerner, said in a Cleveland Clinic news release.
It's not clear how much function the new neurons have, but Trapp and his colleagues plan further research into that question.
"The basic science discovery may provide the basis for the development for new therapies for MS and other neurodegenerative diseases," Trapp said.
The study was published online in the journal Brain.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about MS.