The devastating effects of diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons are caused by the damage inflicted on neurons within the brain. We can only slow the progress and alleviate symptoms of these neurodegenerative diseases. Repairing or replacing brain cells is impossible.
Until now. Scientists at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have found a way to convert a group of cells called pericytes into neurons. Pericytes function to keep the blood brain barrier intact and in other parts of the body play a role in healing wounds.
They have also demonstrated that these new neurons can reach out to other neurons and produce electrical signals.
This means that, with much more research, we may one day be able to treat the diseased brain in such a way as to not only slow the damage, but also heal it.