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Fertilizing future brain cells

Chemical helps newborn neurons reach maturity

Wait until the Miracle-Gro people hear about this.

Researchers have discovered a new chemical compound that helps newborn neurons grow into mature brain cells. In mice, the chemical helped baby neurons survive a particularly tough adolescence in which 60 to 70 percent of the cells typically die, researchers report in the July 9 Cell.

The scientists tested 1,000 chemicals for the ability to stimulate neurogenesis — the development of neurons from birth to fully functional brain cells — in the brains of mice. The team, led by Andrew Pieper and Steven McKnight of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, found eight compounds that could make neurons grow. Computer analysis further narrowed the field to just one compound, dubbed P7C3, with the right properties that make it attractive as a candidate for drug development.

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