For years, researchers studying stem cells have been intrigued by the possibility that these cells might be used to treat brain diseases. Recent studies have suggested that neural stem cells transplanted into the brain can migrate throughout the brain and develop into other types of cells. Now, two new studies show that bone marrow cells transplanted into mice can migrate into the brain and develop into cells that appear to be neurons. The studies suggest that bone marrow may be a readily available source of neural cells with potential for treating such neurological disorders as Parkinsons disease and traumatic brain injury.
While previous research has shown that bone marrow cells can develop into neuron-like cells in culture, the new studies are the first to show that this process can also happen in living animals. The two studies reached the same conclusion despite many differences in how the studies were performed. The results are reported in the December 1, 2000, issue of Science.
"These are extraordinarily important studies, carefully done, with clear implications for brain disorders and for basic developmental biology," says Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
In the first study,(1) NINDS investigator va Mezey, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues injected bone marrow cells from normal male mice into newborn female mice that had no white blood cells of their own. Using marrow from male mice allowed the researchers to use the Y chromosomes in the transplanted cells as a marker to distinguish them from native cells. At different time intervals, the researchers examined cells from the brains of seven mice that had received the transplants and compared them to littermates that had not received the transplants. By 4 months after the transplants, they found a significant number of neuronal cells in several brain regions, including the cortex, the hypothalamus, and the str
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NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke