Massage therapists who also practice craniosacral therapy are adept at feeling and work with cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid found in and around the brain and spinal cord.

Now, researchers say that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may play a larger role in the developing brain than previously thought.

A paper published online March 10th by the journal Neuron sheds light on how signals from the CSF help drive neural development, according to a press release from Children’s Hospital Boston. The paper also identifies a CSF protein whose levels are elevated in patients with glioblastoma, a common malignant brain tumor, suggesting a potential link between CSF signaling and brain tumor growth and regulation.

“We found that the stem cells really behaved according to what CSF they were in,” said senior investigator Christopher Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Genetics at the hospital. “The CSF is really telling the brain what to do. It’s telling the stem cells to either divide a lot if you’re in the embryonic brain, or if you’re in the adult brain, just rest, and we’ll tell you if we need you.”

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