More MS news articles for July 2001

Developing Primate Brain Reserves Pools of Stem Cells for Later Use

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jul 27 - "Pools" of stem cells are set aside during brain organogenesis in monkeys and held in reserve for subsequent repair and plasticity, US researchers report in the July 26th issue of Science.

This and other study findings raise the possibility of using stem cells to treat certain hereditary disorders in utero, co-investigator Dr. Curt R. Freed, of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, explained in an interview with Reuters Health. He cited Tay-Sachs disease as a highly speculative example, adding that it is unclear what the new findings could mean for the treatment of degenerative neurological diseases.

In experiments in which human neural stem cells were injected into the forebrain of monkey fetuses, a team led by Dr. Vaclav Ourednik and Dr. Jitka Ourednik of Harvard University found that the injected cells segregated themselves. Some contributed to corticogenesis by differentiating into neurons and glia, while others remained undifferentiated in a secondary germinal zone or interspersed in brain parenchyma.

The investigators note that clusters of stem cells have been observed in various regions of the human central nervous system, at a range of ages including old age.

"The neural stem cells that have been isolated from adults are likely descendants of the same neural stem cells that contributed to embryonic and fetal CNS development and thus do not represent a unique pool," they write. "In this view, ongoing lifelong self-repair and plasticity is a fundamental developmental program set in place during early stages of brain organogenesis."

The research team was unable to measure exactly how many of the injected cells survived, but they confirmed that "a large number" migrated through "the large expanse of the primate cerebrum."

"In rodents, neural stem cells have been shown to be well-suited for transplant-based approaches to gene therapy and/or cell replacement in diseases characterized by extensive or global abnormalities," the team remarks. "Our results suggest that this approach may similarly be feasible in large primates and possibly humans."

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Ltd