Letters to Nature

Nature 427, 740-744 (19 February 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature02301; Received 24 June 2003; Accepted 19 December 2003

Unique astrocyte ribbon in adult human brain contains neural stem cells but lacks chain migration

Nader Sanai1,2, Anthony D. Tramontin1,2, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa1, Nicholas M. Barbaro1, Nalin Gupta1, Sandeep Kunwar1, Michael T. Lawton1, Michael W. McDermott1, Andrew T. Parsa1, José Manuel-García Verdugo3, Mitchel S. Berger1 & Arturo Alvarez-Buylla1,2

  1. Department of Neurological Surgery and Brain Tumor Research Center, and
  2. Developmental Stem Cell Biology Program, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143, USA
  3. Instituto Cavanilles, University of Valencia, 46100, Spain

Correspondence to: Nader Sanai1,2Arturo Alvarez-Buylla1,2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to N.S. (Email: nsanai@itsa.ucsf.edu) or A.A.-B. (Email: abuylla@itsa.ucsf.edu).

The subventricular zone (SVZ) is a principal source of adult neural stem cells in the rodent brain, generating thousands of olfactory bulb neurons every day1. If the adult human brain contains a comparable germinal region, this could have considerable implications for future neuroregenerative therapy. Stem cells have been isolated from the human brain2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, but the identity, organization and function of adult neural stem cells in the human SVZ are unknown. Here we describe a ribbon of SVZ astrocytes lining the lateral ventricles of the adult human brain that proliferate in vivo and behave as multipotent progenitor cells in vitro. This astrocytic ribbon has not been observed in other vertebrates studied. Unexpectedly, we find no evidence of chains of migrating neuroblasts in the SVZ or in the pathway to the olfactory bulb. Our work identifies SVZ astrocytes as neural stem cells in a niche of unique organization in the adult human brain.