In a guest post, Prof. Elena Cattaneo, University of Milan, Italy reports in EUROSTEMCELL on recent research that examines how a particular type of cell develops in the human brain, and how studies like this fit into the overall picture of research collaboration and funding, in Italy and in Europe.
The striatum is the area of the brain that degenerates in Huntington’s disease (HD) – a neurodegenerative disorder that as of today, has no cure. It took 4 years of continuous experiments of 17 researchers from 6 groups in 2 European countries to understand more about how cells develop in the striatum. This work, led by the group at the University of Milan, was published in Nature Neuroscience on 10 Nov 2014.
According to Prof. Cattaneo, "this kind of study is important because we need to understand more about how our tissues and our cells develop in order to understand why they degenerate. This will also allow us to build strategies to slow the advancement or prevent the onset of disease".
"We identified how striatal neurons mature in the human brain, at a molecular and functional level. These neurons are the ones that die in Huntington’s disease. During the earlier stages of the development of the brain, stem cells are found in an area just around the ventricles. Stem cells destined to generate the striatal neurons possess an identifying molecular code, which then turns into a second code acquired by the cells when they move from this location en route to the striatum. Then, a third identifying code is acquired when the cells finally reach the striatum, where they will remain. For the first time, we could study these 3 steps in development, working with post mortem tissue"
Source: EuroStemCell website