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Marrow Cells "Can Make Brain"

Male brain tissue found in women who received stem cell injections

April 30, 2004
Gabe Romain

Male brain tissue has been found in women who received an injection of men's stem cells to treat cancer, suggesting that adult marrow cells could be used to regenerate the brain.

The findings, by researcher Edward Scott and colleagues at the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center in Gainesville, could have implications for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

"This study suggests that bone marrow could be used as a therapeutic source of readily harvestable cells for the regeneration of nerve cells, with potential application to various neurodegenerative diseases and traumatic central nervous system damage," says Scott.

Replacement cells

Neurodegenerative disorders—such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis—are central nervous system diseases characterized by the progressive loss of neurons.

Stem cells—cells that have the potential to differentiate into any of several types of cells in the body—offer promise as replacement cells for damaged and destroyed neurons.

Adult stem cells were once thought to have far less therapeutic potential than embryonic stem cells, whose use is controversial because it requires the destruction of embryos.

An increasing number of studies, however, have shown that adult stem cells could also help in the treatment of many diseases.

Previous research, for example, has shown that the transplantation of adult human bone marrow cells can generate new neurons and glial cells in the brains of mice.

Hematopoietic stem cells are blood stem cells taken from bone marrow, and besides being less controversial they could also be a source that's readily harvestable for regenerative purposes.

Bone to brain

For their study, Scott and colleagues examined the brain tissue of three women who had received bone marrow transplantation from male donors to help treat leukemia—cancer of the bone marrow.

The researchers found that donor cells containing a Y chromosome—from a male origin—were present in all three women's brains up to six years after bone marrow transplantation.

All recipients had transgender brain tissue, and in the longest survivor, the researchers found Y-chromosome-containing neurons, astrocytes and glial cells.

"Our results have strong implications for neurobiology, as well as stem-cell biology," say the researchers. "They suggest that a transplantable hematopoietic cell responds to instructive neurotrophic cues, crosses the blood-brain barrier, migrates into CNS parenchyma, and activates neural specific genetic programming. In other words, bone marrow can make brain."

Copyright © 2004, Betterhumans