How Can We Coax The Brain To Self-Repair?
When someone experiences a stroke, their brain performance is affected as critical blood supply is cut off, thus resulting in loss of function as the neurons die. It was once believed that if you damaged or injured your brain it could not self-repair. However, as the field of science advances this theory is being challenged. We now know there are discrete regions of the nervous system that can replace cells that are lost or damaged. One example is the tissue that is responsible for our sense of smell, called the olfactory epithelium. When the olfactory epithelium repairs itself through cell replacement, its function is likewise restored. This is how we are able to maintain a memory of the smells we have encountered over our lifetime. By applying regenerative mechanisms from the olfactory epithelium to the brain, functional recovery following a stroke may allow people to regain partial brain function and cognition. By studying the olfactory epithelium in chicken embryos, our goal is to identify the cells that are capable of cell replacement, termed regeneration. We use antibodies, like those found in your immune system, to apply fluorescent tags specifically to the cells thought to regenerate. A laser confocal microscope is used to visualize the cells labeled with fluorescent tags and produces a digital image that allows one to determine the location and abundance of the labeled cells. This research will contribute to the overall understanding of embryonic development in the olfactory epithelium and the long-term goal of identifying how neural tissue can regenerate to replace lost neurons.