Washington D.C.--Reprogrammed adult neural stem cells can potentially generate a cornucopia of cell types-giving rise to cells in heart, liver, muscle, intestine and other tissues, a 2 June Science study suggests.
When adult neural stem cells from mice are grown with embryonic cells or within an embryo, the adult stem cells can revert to an unspecialized state and give rise to different cell lineages, according to the Science study. The research, completed by a team of Swedish scientists, adds to a growing body of data indicating that adult stem cells, like embryonic stem cells, may be more versatile than previously assumed.
Embryonic stem cells are the "blank slates" of an organism, capable of developing into all types of tissue in the body. Scientists have long been interested in the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells, which may be used someday to create new tissues for organ transplants and replacements for cells destroyed by diseases like diabetes or trauma like spinal cord injuries.
As ethical and legal controversy threatens to cloud the future of embryonic stem cell research, however, some scientists have turned to adult stem cells to discover whether they also have the same open-ended potential. Until recently, researchers thought that the more specialized adult stem cells, found in areas of the body like the skin, nervous system, and blood and lymph systems, could only give rise to their own kind. Now, scientists are accumulating evidence--including last year's mouse study showing how brain stem cells transplanted into bone marrow could produce blood cells (see Science, 22 January 1999)--that adult stem cells may be capable of reprogramming themselves.
The Science study confirms that adult stem cells are in fact more chameleon-like than previously suspected, taking cues from their cellular environment to produce offspring of the same type as the cells that surround them. To test the influence of env
Contact: Heather Singmaster
American Association for the Advancement of Science