Brain Cells Have Greater Plasticity Than Previously Thought
While brain cells do not divide, and the ones a person is born with must last a lifetime, new research shows that overtime genes are turned on and off depending on the stimuli present. Through a process called histone turnover gene expression can be altered in response to changes in the environment. In histone turnover, histone spools in brain cells, the place where genes are wound, are almost constantly being swapped out and replaced. The frequency with which the brain swaps out histone spools could explain its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and at Rockefeller University, according to GEN News, published an article noting that histone turnover regulates how genes in the brain are turned on and off in response to various stimuli, thereby allowing neurons to form new synaptic connections. Scientists looked at H3.3, a version of histone H3, known to cause frequent histone turnovers when present in cells. Using a technique called 14C/12C bomb pulse, they measured turnover and confirmed through comparisons of samples from time of death and time of birth that H3.3 turnover does occur throughout life in the human brain.