Researchers at Jefferson Medical College have found a new way to coax bone marrow stem cells into becoming dopamine-producing neurons. If the method proves reliable, the work may ultimately lead to new therapies for neurological diseases such as Parkinsons disease, which is marked by a loss of dopamine-making cells in the brain.
Developmental biologist Lorraine Iacovitti, Ph.D., associate director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and her co-workers had previously shown that by using a potion of growth factors and other nutrients in the laboratory, they were able to convert adult human bone marrow stem cells into adult brain cells. Human adult bone marrow stem cells – also known as pluripotent stem cells – normally give rise to human bone, muscle, cartilage and fat cells.
While nearly all cells looked like neurons with axonal processes, they invariably reverted back to their original undifferentiated state in two to three days. Dr. Iacovitti and her co-workers instead attempted to grow the cells in a different way. Rather than an attached monolayer of skin-like cells, they grew the bone marrow cells in suspension as neurospheres – groups of cells early in development – akin to the way neural stem cells are grown.
Steve Benowitz | EurekAlert!
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