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Stem cells show promise for treating Huntington's disease
Date:9/25/2007

ty. In basic neuroscience studies, Goldman was investigating how canaries learn new songs, and he found that every time a canary learns a new song, it creates new brain cells called neurons. His doctoral thesis in 1983 was the first report of neurogenesis the production of new brain cells in the adult brain, and opened the door to the possibility that the brain has a font of stem cells that could serve as the source for new cells.

The finding led to a career for Goldman, who has created ways to isolate stem cells. These techniques have allowed Goldmans group to discover the molecular signals that help determine what specific types of cells they become, and re-create those signals to direct the cells development. Benraiss has worked closely with Goldman for more than 10 years on the Huntingtons project.

The type of brain cell that allows a canary to learn a new song is the same cell type that dies in patients with Huntingtons disease, said Goldman, professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Pediatrics, and chief of the Division of Cell and Gene Therapy. Once we worked out the molecular signals that control the development of these brain cells, the next logical step was to try to trigger their regeneration in Huntingtons disease.

Huntingtons is an inherited disorder that affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. A defective gene results in the death of vital brain cells known as medium spiny neurons, resulting in involuntary movements, problems with coordination, cognitive difficulties, and depression and irritability. The disease usually strikes in young to mid adulthood, in a patients 30s or 40s; there is currently no way to slow the progression of the disease, which is fatal.

Stem cells offer a potential pool to replace neurons lost in almost any disease, but first scientists must learn the extensive molecular signaling that shapes their development. The fate of a stem cell depends on scores of biochemical signals in the brain, a
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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