Only in California. No, really.
With previous failures of converting embryonic stems cells only into supporting glial cells instead of general neurons, Stuart Lipton’s research group at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, CA recently discovered how to convert mice stem cells into neurons. These cells were then transplanted into a mouse brain and they successfullyconnected and functioned within the existing neuron network.
The work is funded from a four-year, $75 million grant (pdf) from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Understanding how stems cells transform into any of the hundreds of types of cells in the human body is still a challenge, but Lipton’s team is focusing on the protein MEFC2 and how it links to the genes in the stem cell to tell it to turn into a neuron.
Although we’re still far far away from doing clinical trials to throw these neurons into human brains and “see what happens”, this research is critical just for further fundamental understanding of neuron cell development, growth, and function. How neurons grow and, in particular, how they interconnect with one another is a major factor in the overall resulting function of the brain. So, watching how a neuron is “born” (and understanding it so well that we can guide the process) and then interconnect will provide more insight into the function of a larger neuron network.
“Repairing damage to brain may be nearer” :: SignOnSanDiego.com :: June 25, 2008 :: [READ]
“Scientists repair brain using GM embryo cells” :: Telegraph.uk.co :: June 24, 2008 :: [READ]