Oxygen deficit makes nerve cells grow: Study
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Oxygen deficit, also called hypoxia, in the brain is actually an absolute state of emergency and can permanently damage nerve cells. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that to a certain extent, hypoxia can also be an important signal for growth.

The shortage of oxygen activates, among other things, the growth factor erythropoietin (Epo), which stimulates the formation of new synapses and nerve cells. In a new study, the research group examined in detail which brain regions and cell types are affected by the shortage of oxygen.

They used genetically modified mice that produce a molecule throughout the brain that leads to the formation of a fluorescent dye when there is an oxygen deficit. In order to challenge the mice both mentally and physically, the researchers let them run on specially prepared running wheels for several days. The mice had to concentrate while running on these wheels to avoid stumbling in addition to being physically exerted.

--The change in the activity of many genes was similar, and a mild oxygen deficit occurred throughout the brain.

--However, there were major differences between different cell types: nerve cells were particularly affected, whereas the glial cells (auxiliary cells of the neurons) were only slightly affected.

--In addition, the Epo gene in the brain, together with a number of other genes, is particularly stimulated during both mental and physical activity.

These data suggest an intriguing model of neuroplasticity, in which a specific task-associated neuronal activity triggers mild hypoxia as a local neuron-specific as well as a brain-wide response, comprising indirectly activated neurons and non-neuronal cells.

Molecular Psychiatry
Source: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-020-00988-w