University of Florida scientists have discovered a way to separate the neural wheat from the chaff during the process of generating brain cells for potential patient therapies.
The technique, recently detailed in the online journal PLoS ONE, could be applied to long-awaited stem cell treatments for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and other brain disorders. It would allow doctors to deliver neurons to patients, without including vast amounts of other types of unnecessary brain cells.
"We need to be able to deliver precise doses of our therapeutic drug, which in this case is neurons that are needed to restore function lost as a result of disease or injury," said Brent A. Reynolds, Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery with UF's Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute. "Prior to the development of our technology, it was not possible to deliver highly pure populations of neurons, or to control the number of neurons that were delivered."
For more than a decade, scientists and policymakers have pursued the idea of using stem cells to restore vitality in patients with brain diseases or injuries. The therapeutic stem cells can come from a variety of sources, including controversial embryonic and fetal tissue or, in this application, noncontroversial adult brain tissue.
Youthful or immature cells, neural stem cells have the ability to survive and integrate into the nervous system, but they haven't fully settled on their roles yet. Most of them will become glial cells, not the more highly valued neurons.
Experimenting with neural stem cells from rodents, UF researchers and colleagues from the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia were able to generate hearty, immature cells fully committed to becoming neurons. The accomplishment suggests it will be possible to provide unlimited quantities of neurons from a safe, renewable source of cells for replacement therapies in the central nervous system.<
|Contact: John Pastor |
University of Florida