For more than a decade, Steve Stice has dedicated his research using embryonic stem cells to improving the lives of people with degenerative diseases and debilitating injuries. His most recent discovery, which produces billions of neural cells from a few stem cells, could now aid in national security.
It's like a canary-in-a-coal-mine scenario, said Stice, a University of Georgia animal science professor and Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholar in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
In collaboration with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Stice hopes to use his recently developed neural cell kits to detect chemical threats.
They have a device that looks like a small tool box that contains neural cells and can detect changes in their electrical activity, Stice said. When these cells activity is altered, you know there's something present that shouldn't be and they don't like it.
The system now being used in the monitoring device uses mouse neural cells. The problem is, Stice said, mouse neural cells die out pretty fast on their own. So if you tried sending this device out with the troops, somebody has to change out the cells every couple of weeks. Plus, mice aren't humans. They react very differently to chemicals than we do.
Stice's neural cell kits created from human embryonic stem cell lines last up to six months. We've never tested to see how far beyond that they're viable, he said. It could be much longer.
Stice believes the project has huge implications for Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. He came on the idea when he was searching for immediate uses for his neural cell kits.
I contacted researchers at NRL who had published a paper on the detection system. We met in Washington to see what we could do together, he said. They've developed the recording device, and we have the cells they need. So working together, we can vastly improve that project.
|Contact: Kim Osborne|
University of Georgia