By Cristy Lytal
How do humans and other mammals get so brainy? USC researcher Wange Lu, PhD, and his colleagues shed new light on this question in a paper published in Cell Reports on Oct. 24.
The researchers donned their thinking caps to explain how neural stem and progenitor cells differentiate into neurons and related cells called glia. Neurons transmit information through electrical and chemical signals; glia surround, support and protect neurons in the brain and throughout the nervous system. Glia do everything from holding neurons in place to supplying them with nutrients and oxygen, to protecting them from pathogens.
By studying early mouse embryo neural stem cells in a petri dish, Lu and his colleagues discovered that a protein called SMEK1 promotes the differentiation of neural stem and progenitor cells. At the same time, SMEK1 keeps these cells in check by suppressing their uncontrolled proliferation. … Read More »