Neurons grown from embryonic stem cells can contribute to repair of the damaged cerebral cortex in adult mice after brain transplant
As stem cell transplants show increasing promise to repair eye diseases of the cornea and retina, one of the next frontiers of regenerative medicine is using stem cells grown in the laboratory to repair neurons within the brain, especially the cerebral cortex, which is the target of many brain insults following trauma or stroke. For the first time, scientists at the University of Brussels in Belgium, led by neurobiologist Pierre Vanderhaeghen, show that if the specific neurons found in the vision center of the cerebral cortex can be grown in the laboratory from embryonic stem cells, then these neurons can reestablish a substantial part of the circuits that were lost because of the damage. Thereby, the transplanted neurons could contribute to the repair of the injured cortical tissue after transplantation.
The researchers note that the same neurons did not have the same regenerative effects when transplanted in parts of the brain where they are not usually found, emphasizing the importance of the proper engineering of the cells before transplantation. The transplanted neurons were integrated successfully in the damaged brain, and some of them were even able to respond to visual stimulus, confirming the translational potential of the laboratory-grown neurons; however, much more research is needed before any clinical application in humans.
Research: Area-specific reestablishment of damaged circuits in the adult cerebral cortex by cortical neurons derived from mouse embryonic stem cells, Michelsen et al., Neuron, doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.02.001, published 4 March 2015.
Source: Cell Press