American researchers have identified the stem cells that generate three important classes of nerve cells which are responsible for enabling animals and humans, to eat, interact socially and reproduce.
These nerve cells are: olfactory receptors (ORNs), vomeronasal (VRNs) and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons.
By studying mice at the earliest stages of embryonic development, LaMantia and his colleagues were able to identify the location of these cells, confirm that they divide slowly and symmetrically-thus making more stem cells, have a distinct molecular identity, and give rise to all cell types in the tissue-including ORNs, VRNs and GnRH neurons.
These embryonic olfactory stem cells also are ultimately responsible for generating stem cells that remain in the lining of the nose throughout life and make new ORNs and VRNs. Thus these stem cells are also essential to enable a rare example of nervous system regeneration that continues throughout life.
Dr. LaMantia said: "By identifying these stems cells, our research will help physicians understand why people have certain genetic, neurological, and mental disabilities. Olfaction is often compromised early in the course of a number of serious diseases including autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease, and GnRH deficiency is important in many cases of infertility. It is my hope that in the future, we will combine this sort of cell and molecular biology with clinical practice to develop better treatments for patients with these disorders."