Human Neural Stem Cells Advance Distant Prospect Of Reseeding Damaged Brain

ANAHEIM, Calif.-January 25, 1999-Like many students of the human brain, Evan Snyder for years has helped finance and publish his work on mice by arguing that it might yield important insights into the human organ's development and disease. Few scientists ever get to redeem that promise.

Last November, Snyder did. Snyder, an assistant professor of neurology at Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues reported in Nature Biotechnology that they had cloned a human neural stem cell-one of the first times a human stem cell was identified in a solid organ. Moreover, the researchers confirmed that the human cells held the same potential for future therapies as that established for their rodent counterparts.

Snyder will present his work in a press briefing on January 25 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Anaheim, Calif.

Snyder's study validates a decade's worth of research into the cell biology of brain development in mice. It also moves current attempts at harnessing neural stem cells for the treatment of human disease one step closer to reality. Conditions ranging from inherited neurogenetic defects, such as Tay-Sachs disease, to birth-related oxygen deprivation, spinal cord damage, and brain cancer could one day be treated with neural stem cells, says Snyder.

For some of these disorders, grafting mouse cells into mouse brains has been known for some time to succeed, but a lack of human cells for study delayed such research in the human brain.

Snyder's paper came amid a recent flurry of stem cell reports. Researchers elsewhere showed the existence of immature cells in the embryonic human brain, while others demonstrated continued birth of nerve cells in small regions of the adult human brain. And two teams described the cloning of human embryonic stem cells that can generate cells of all tissue types, fueling the intertwined debates abou

Contact: Bill Schaller
Harvard Medical School

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