An Inexhaustible Source of Neural Cells

Photo: old man drawn from the front and the side

In future, the research could help
patients suffering from Parkinson's
Disease, as this old man

Stem cell research appears to be divided between two worlds: on the one hand, are the embryonic stem cells – omnipotent, with unlimited development potential, and on the other, are the so-called somatic stem cells, which are obtainable from adult tissue, but have only limited potential for self-renewal and development.

Scientists have now combined these two worlds: they say they have derived brain stem cells of almost unlimited self-renewal capacity and conservation potential from human embryonic stem cells. Using these stable cell lines, they were then able to obtain a continual in vitro supply of diverse types of human neural cell including, for example, those which fail with Parkinson´s disease.

According to the scientists, using the new cells reduces their requirements for embryonic stem cells, which have hitherto been indispensable as basic material for every individual cell creation process. “The new cells, in contrast, serve as an inexhaustible source: they provide a supply of human neural cells over periods of months and years without demanding any recourse to supplementary embryonic stem cells”, declares Oliver Brüstle, head of the research team at the Institute for Reconstructive Neurobiology at Bonn University.

Using animal experiments, the researchers showed that these artificially derived neural cells could also function. Transplanted into the brain of a mouse, these cells made contact with the recipient brain and were subsequently able both to send and receive signals. “This is the first direct evidence that neural cells derived from human stem cells are capable of synaptic integration in the brain”, declares Philipp Koch, the original author of the study. The scientists are now also hoping to exploit this inexhaustible cell source to study neurodegenerative diseases and possible active agents directly in human neural cells.; Source: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn