Research Into Neural Stem Cells
Neural Stem Cells are able to do a lot but they can’t do everything. For example, brain and spinal cord cells are not usually generated by neural stem cells of the peripheral nervous system. It is also not possible to produce cells of the peripheral nervous system from the stem cells of the brain.
With that said, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg have succeeded in producing central nervous system cells from neural stem cells of the peripheral nervous system. They discovered that if peripheral stem cells are maintained under defined growth conditions, they generate oligodendrocytes, which form the myelin layer that surrounds the neurons found in the brain and spinal cord.
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The mammalian nervous system consists of a central (brain, spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (nerves and sensory ganglia). These two systems are very closely linked, but they do differ anatomically and consist of different cell types. The cell types of the peripheral nervous system come from precursor cells in the embryo called the neural crest. To date, it has been believed that these neural crest stem cells could generate the neurons and support cells, known as glial cells, of the peripheral nervous system, but not the cells of the central nervous system.
Scientists have discovered that environmental conditions clearly determine the kind of cells that neural crest stem cells develop. Along with colleagues from Paris, the Freiburg and Frankfurt based scientists succeeded in demonstrating that under modified conditions, these neural crest stem cells can also generate cells of the central nervous system. What they did was expose stem cells from the peripheral nervous system of embryonic or postnatal mice to different culture conditions. In addition to neurons, the neural crest stem cells also developed into different types of glial cells of the central nervous system including oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. What they proved was that the culture medium reprograms that neural crest stem cells in such as way that they change their identity. This worked without genetic modification of the cells.
Factors in the culture medium clearly activated a different genetic program so that cell types developed from the stem cells that normally wouldn’t. The scientists aren’t sure of the precise factors at work here but there are some indications that fibroblast growth factor (FGF) is involved in the transformation.
In the brains of mice at different developmental stages, the reprogrammed stem cells mainly developed into oligodendrocytes, which form the myelin layer around the neurons of the central nervous system and these are indispensable for the transmission of electrical stimuli. Transplantation experiments carried out by the researchers on genetically modified mice that don’t produce myelin and have severe neurological defects proved that the new oligodendrocytes can also assume this task. Researchers stated that the reprogrammed stem cells can form cells of the central nervous system and the new cells can permanently integrate into this system.
It isn’t fully clear to what extent these basic research findings will contribute to the development of cell therapy for humans. This would require that similar stem cells are present and accessible in the peripheral nervous system of humans and that these can be propagated and reprogrammed in culture. At present all the researchers know is that these stem cells in mice also have the potential to produce oligodendrocytes. These scientists are now going to investigate in great detail which molecular mechanisms are responsible for the reprogramming of the stem cells. They are also going to look at whether neural crest stem cells also exist in the peripheral nervous system of adult mice and what kind of conditions are required to allow for the reprogramming of these cells.
This is yet another step forward in the search for new neural stem cell therapies and it is hoped in future that this new found knowledge can be used to create new therapies to cure a number of neurological diseases in the future.
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We are in Kissimmee just now and am managing to play golf without any pain. We were over in Kissimmee in October 2014 and played golf for the first time since I had the stem cell replacement and couldn't believe that I had no pain at all. This is great.
The stem cell procedure was done here in the office and they used my own fat, my own bone marrow, and my own blood. It was very safe and I didn’t have any worries. More people should look into (stem cell treatments), and there’s really nothing to be worried about.