BAVARIAN RESEARCH NETWORK FOR ADULT NEURAL STEM CELLS
Identification of signaling-pathways regulating adult neural stem cell maintenance
Neural stem cells have the unique potential to generate new stem cells (self-renewal) and to generate all major cell types of the brain including neurons (multipotency). During adulthood neural stem cells continue to generate new functional neurons in the hippocampus- a brain structure with a central role in learning and memory formation. Recent data indicate that the continuous generation of new neurons (neurogenesis) is essential for hippocampal function. Studies in several animal models have shown that the rate of hippocampal neurogenesis is highly correlated with performance in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory tasks. Moreover, age-associated decline in hippocampal function is paralleled by a dramatic decrease in the number of newly generated neurons in the aging hippocampus. One major reason for the age-associated decrease in hippocampal neurogenesis appears to be the incomplete maintenance of hippocampal neural stem cells. Our project aims at the identification and characterization of the signals that govern maintenance of the hippocampal neural stem cell population. Because of the importance of neurogenesis for hippocampal dependent learning and memory, identification of stem cell maintenance signals may contribute to the development of novel strategies for age-associated impairment of learning and memory.