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14-Jan-2015 03:51

But Spalding persevered, and her hard work eventually paid off.Last June, she published a paper in which she conclusively stated that adult human did indeed build new neurons in their brains.Standing outside the low, gray industrial building, she watched as horses went in one side and, about 15 minutes later, a worker appeared on the other end, holding a head, neurons and all.

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“Had we known how difficult it was going to be, we never would have stuck with it,” says physicist Bruce Buchholz, one of Spalding’s co-authors and an expert on bomb pulse dating at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory outside San Francisco.“In order for this to have significance, we needed to know whether this occurred in humans.” To identify dividing cells in mice and rats, Gage had been using a molecule known as bromodeoxyuridine, or Brd U.Brd U is a synthetic nucleoside that can be incorporated into newly synthesized DNA in place of the standard nucleoside thymidine, the T in ATCG.In the years leading up to that, Spalding and Frisén pioneered a new field of research, using the Cold War bomb pulse to answer a number of questions about human physiology, including neuron formation and lipid cycling.

“It’s an amazingly powerful tool, whether you want to look at a fat cell or a brain cell,” Spalding says.The human hippocampus, Spalding and Frisén discovered, was continually creating small numbers of neurons.