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New Neurons for Life

Experts in neuroscience have always questioned if people can, indeed, produce new brain cells after their brain development stops during adolescence. Neurogenesis has been recently studied in middle aged people. Studies about the same thing have been done before, but their methods are believed to have been flawed.

According to a neuroscientist at Toronto, Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children, Paul Frankland, their recent study gives conclusive evidence that neurogenesis continues throughout life. Studies in the past usually fail to detect neurogenesis because the samples deteriorated. The brain tissue is usually immersed in paraformaldehyde fixative for months or years. The chemical immersion makes it challenging for fluorescent antibodies and DCX (doublecortin) protein to bind together. This binding is the main marker for underdeveloped neurons.

The brain samples must not exceed 48 hours in a paraformaldehyde bath so that they could test positive for DCX. If these samples are only tested after 6 months, it wouldn’t be possible to detect new neurons. In a shorter fixation period of 24 hours of brain tissue from deceased adults, 43 to 87 years of age, scientists found cells positive with DCX, in their tens of thousands, in the dentate gyrus. According to experts, the debate about whether neurogenesis still happens in old people or not ends here.

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