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MIT: Stem-cell therapies for brain more complicated than thought
Date:11/27/2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. An MIT research teams latest finding suggests that stem cell therapies for the brain could be much more complicated than previously thought.

In a study published in the Public Library of Science (PloS) Biology on Nov. 13, MIT scientists report that adult stem cells produced in the brain are pre-programmed to make only certain kinds of connectionsmaking it impossible for a neural stem cell originating in the brain to be transplanted to the spinal cord, for instance, to take over functions for damaged cells.

Some researchers hope to use adult stem cells produced in the brain to replace neurons lost to damage and diseases such as Alzheimers. The new study calls this into question.

It is wishful thinking to hope that adult stem cells will be able to modify themselves so that they can become other types of neurons lost to injury or disease, said Carlos E. Lois, assistant professor of neuroscience in MITs Picower Institute for Leaning and Memory.

In developing embryos, stem cells give rise to all the different types of cells that make up the body--skin, muscle, nerve, brain, blood and more. Some of these stem cells persist in adults and give rise to new skin cells, stomach lining cells, etc. The idea behind stem-cell therapy is to use these cells to repair tissue or organs ravaged by disease.

To realize this potential, the stem cells have to be instructed to become liver cells, heart cells or neurons. The MIT study, which looked only at adult neural stem cells, suggests it will be necessary to learn how to program any kind of stem cellembryonic, adult or those derived through other meansto produce specific types of functioning neurons. Without this special set of instructions, a young neuron will only connect with the partners for which it was pre-programmed.

The adult brain harbors its own population of stem cells that spawn new neurons for life. The MIT study shows that a neural stem cell is i
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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