What zebrafish can teach us about healing brain damage

November 11, 2012

Zebrafish neurogenesis (nerve-cell creation): Left: zebrafish brain showing microglia cells. Center: lesion (damage) results in microglia activation and leukocyte invasion (green cells), which generates inflammation, causing proliferation of radial glia cells (red). Right: resulting generation of newborn neurons (blue). (Credit: Nikos Kyritsis et al./Science)

The zebrafish regenerates its brain after injury, unlike mammals. Is there something we can learn about the process that might help with traumatic brain injury  and neurodegenerative disorders?

A research team at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD), Germany decided to investigate.

They found that that in zebrafish — in contrast to mammals — inflammation is a positive regulator of neuronal regeneration in the central nervous system, and in fact, is required.

“Our results suggest that acute inflammation can promote central nervous system regeneration, because it provides cues necessary for the initiation of the reactive proliferation and regenerative neurogenesis in adult zebrafish brain,” the researchers say in a Science paper. “Our findings reveal a signaling pathway in zebrafish that couples the inflammatory response to efficient enhancement of stem cell activity and initiation of neural regeneration.”

It it hoped that the research will lead to therapeutic applications in the future.