Still, only in California.
Researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies are bringing the control of brain cell development from in vitro to in vivo.
Stems cells — in a petri dish — are currently being routinely genetically converted into specific types of cells by introducing certain growth factors. Here, an injected retrovirus into the brain of a mouse to deliver a specific gene into adult stems is used to control stem cell development in vivo. It was previously shown that particular gene, called the Ascl1, converted neuronal stems cells into oligodendrocytes, the critical neuron network supportive cell that forms fatty insulation layers around axons to speed up the propagation of electrical signals.
The extremely exciting prospect of this discovery is the potential ability to increase the production of certain types of brain cells in patients where they are deficient. In particular, multiple sclerosis (more) is caused by the immune system killing off oligodendrocytes, so that neuron communication throughout the body is severely degraded. But, if replacement cells can be controlled, then the effects of the disease might be minimized.
“Adult Stem Cells Reprogrammed In Their Natural Environment” :: ScienceDaily :: July 1, 2008 :: [ READ ]
“Directed differentiation of hippocampal stem/progenitor cells in the adult brain” :: Nature Neuroscience :: Published online: 29 June 2008 [ READ ABSTRACT ]
Learn more about the researchers involved in the project: