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Transplanted neural stem cells migrate throughout the abnormal brain, reduce disease symptoms

For years, researchers have probed the mysteries of neural stem cells -- immature cells that can differentiate into all the cell types that make up the brain -- with the idea that they might be useful for treating brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Important new animal research now suggests that these cells may be effective in treating a much broader array of brain diseases than previously anticipated, including Alzheimer's disease and many childhood brain disorders.

The new study, led by Evan Snyder, M.D., Ph.D., of Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, provides the first evidence from studies in animals that neural stem cells can be used to repair damage from brain disorders such as adrenoleukodystrophy and multiple sclerosis, where cell dysfunction is "global" or spread throughout the brain. Investigators previously believed that the promise of these cells was limited to disorders such as Parkinson's disease in which damage is restricted to defined areas of the brain. While preliminary, the new findings raise exciting possibilities for future therapies. The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and appears in the June 8, 1999, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)(1).

"Stem cells that can develop into a variety of different types of nerve cells and glial cells would be extremely valuable in the therapy of acute and chronic neurological disorders," says Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., director of NINDS. "The current study shows that stem cells of a certain type can become distributed widely throughout the brain." Glial cells are non-neuronal cells which play supporting roles in the brain and nervous system.

In the new study, Dr. Snyder and his colleagues injected cultured neural stem cells into the brain ventricles of newborn mice from a mutant strain that develops severe tremors by 2 to 3 weeks of age. The tremor develops becaus
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Contact: Natalie Larsen or Margo Warren
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
8-Jun-1999


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