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Scientists create stable, self-renewing neural stem cells
Date:4/25/2011

Assays of these neural precursor cells found no evidence of tumor formation when introduced into laboratory mice.

By adding other chemicals, the scientists are able to then direct the precursor cells to differentiate into different types of mature neurons, "which means you can explore potential clinical applications for a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases," said Zhang. "You can generate neurons for specific conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease or, in the case of my particular research area, eye-specific neurons that are lost in macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa or glaucoma."

The new process promises to have broad applications in stem cell research. The same method can be used to push induce pluripotent stem cells (stem cells artificially derived from adult, differentiated mature cells) to become neural stem cells, Zhang said. "And in principle, by altering the combination of small molecules, you may be able to create other types of stem cells capable of becoming heart, pancreas, or muscle cells, to name a few."

The next step, according to Zhang, is to use these stem cells to treat different types of neurodegenerative diseases, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma in animal models.


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Contact: Scott LaFee
slafee@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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