The identification of neural stem and progenitor cells (NPCs) by in vivo brain imaging could have important implications for diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic purposes. We describe a metabolic biomarker for the detection and quantification of NPCs in the human brain in vivo. We used proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify and characterize a biomarker in which NPCs are enriched and demonstrated its use as a reference for monitoring neurogenesis. To detect low concentrations of NPCs in vivo, we developed a signal processing method that enabled the use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy for the analysis of the NPC biomarker in both the rodent brain and the hippocampus of live humans. Our findings thus open the possibility of investigating the role of NPCs and neurogenesis in a wide variety of human brain disorders.
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