Writing in today's (June 13) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe a cell culture method that holds the promise of producing a limitless supply of a person's own brain cells to potentially heal disorders such as Parkinson's disease or epilepsy.
"It's like an assembly line to manufacture and increase the number of brain cells," said Bjorn Scheffler, M.D., a neuroscientist with UF's College of Medicine. "We can basically take these cells and freeze them until we need them. Then we thaw them, begin a cell-generating process, and produce a ton of new neurons."
If the discovery can translate to human applications, it will enhance efforts aimed at finding ways to use large numbers of a person's own cells to restore damaged brain function, partially because the technique produces cells in far greater amounts than the body can on its own.
In addition, the discovery pinpoints the cell that is truly what people refer to when they say "stem cell." Although the term is used frequently to describe immature cells that are the building blocks of bones, skin, flesh and organs, the actual stem cell as it exists in the brain has been enigmatic, according to Dennis Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute and senior author of the paper. Its general location was known, but it was an obscure species in a sea of cell types.
"We've isolated for the first time what appears to be the true candidate stem cell," said Steindler, a neuroscientist and member of UF's Program of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. "There have been other candidates, but in this case we used a special microscope that allows us to watch living cells over lo
Contact: John Pastor
University of Florida