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Researchers of the University of Cadiz plan to generate in vitro neurons from adult stem cells

A team of researchers of the University of Cadiz, headed by Carmen Estrada Cerquera, has started a project of excellence, subsidized with 166,000 euros from the Andalusian Ministry of Innovation, Science and Enterprise, that aims to study neural stem cells and the conditions in which they could be used in the treatment of diseases.

According to the said researcher, this project “is part of the attempt that many laboratories are currently making worldwide to get to know better the biology of stem cells and the conditions in which some of their varieties could be used to treat some diseases”. In this case, scientists are going to study neural stem cells of adult mouse brains which, after being differentiated from neurons in a lab, will be implanted into the damaged cerebral cortex of genetically identical mice.

As Carmen Estrada explained, there is a specific area in the adult rodents’ brain, the subventricular area, where new neurons are massively generated from neural stem cells during the animals’ life. Although this phenomenon does not exist in humans in normal conditions, stem cells have been also detected in that area, with the possibility of generating new neurons under certain circumstances.

With this project, researchers will obtain information about neural stem cells that remain in the brain after birth, and will analyse their properties while they are in lab cultures, as well as after being implanted into the host brain.

Scientists hope to determine the conditions that allow neuron differentiation and to identify potentially useful genes as regulators or markers of such process. Thus, they will determine to what extent the neurons obtained in culture have the typical molecular structure of cells of its phenotype in adult brains.

In short, these trials will allow to establish “whether or not suitable neurons from neural stem cells can be transplanted into the brain of another animal”. The results will allow scientists to get to know the evolution of transplants and provide useful data in order to develop a cellular therapy as part of the treatment of some diseases linked to neuronal death.

Ismael Gaona | alfa
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