New Light on How Brain Stem Cells are Activated

Neural stem cells (NSCs)  produce neurons (nerve cells) and surrounding glial cells in the brain. By understanding how NSCs work, it could pave the way for therapies to speed up the neurons’ and glial cells’ regeneration.

The new study, conducted using Drosophila fruit flies, shows that molecules that form a complex called STRIPAK are essential to promote reactivation in NSCs. STRIPAK (Striatin-interacting phosphatase and kinase) is found in organisms from fungi to humans, and the team uncovered it when comparing the genetic messages of dormant and reactivated NSCs in live fly brains.

The researchers then discovered that STRIPAK components act as a switch to turn off dormancy  and turn on reactivation.

“So little is currently known about how neural stem cells coordinate cues to become active and direct the production of more brain cells,” says Claudia Barros. “These stem cells last throughout life mainly in a dormant state, so learning how they work is critical to our understanding of cell regeneration.

“This study reveals that STRIPAK molecules are essential to enable reactivation in NSCs, and we are very pleased with the outcomes. But we are only at the beginning. We are working to expand our findings and bring us closer to the day when human neural stem cells can be controlled and efficiently used to facilitate brain damage repair, or even prevent brain cancer growth that is fuelled by stem-like cells.”


Jon Gil-Ranedo, Eleanor Gonzaga, Karolina J. Jaworek, Christian Berger, Torsten Bossing, Claudia S. Barros. STRIPAK Members Orchestrate Hippo and Insulin Receptor Signaling to Promote Neural Stem Cell Reactivation. Cell Reports, 2019; 27 (10): 2921 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.05.023

University of Plymouth. “Research sheds new light on how brain stem cells are activated: Study shows promise for future neural stem cell therapies in replacing cells lost through disease or injury.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2019. <>.

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Photo by Robina Weermeijer