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Transplanted Bone Marrow Cells Aid Nerve Regeneration

Japanese research with stem cells could be a step in developing artificial neurons

THURSDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Transplanted bone marrow cells containing adult stem cells can help regenerate damaged nerves, say Japanese researchers.

The Kyoto University School of Medicine team said the results, achieved by placing the bone marrow cells in a small silicon tube and nourishing them with bio-engineered materials such as growth factors and cell adhesion molecules, could be an important advance in finding ways to create artificial nerves.

"We focused on the vascular and neurochemical environment within the tube," lead author Dr. Tomoyuki Yamakawa said in a prepared statement. "We thought that BMCs (bone marrow cells) containing adult stem cells, with the potential to differentiate into bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, or neuronal cells, could survive by obtaining oxygen and nutrients, with the result that rates of cell differentiation and regeneration would improve."

After 24 weeks, the BMCs differentiated into cells with characteristics of Schwann cells -- a type of neural cell that provides the insulating myelin around the axons of peripheral nerve cells.

"The differentiated cells ... contributed significantly to the promotion of axon regeneration through the tube. This success may be a further step in developing artificial nerves," Yamakawa said.

The study was published in the journal Cell Transplantation.

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SOURCE: Cell Transplantation, news release, December 2007

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