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Cells from adult bone marrow can be converted into brain stem cells for transplantation


Hope for people with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other neurodegenerative diseases may ultimately come from their own bodies. Research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., April 24 – May 1, 2004, shows that cells taken from adult human bone marrow can be converted into brain stem cells that meet the criteria for transplantation into the brain.

"It’s exciting to think that some day a person with Alzheimer’s disease could use their own bone marrow to create brain cells that could potentially restore their functioning and make up for cells that were lost," said study author and neurologist Alexander Storch, MD, of the University of Ulm in Ulm, Germany.

Use of the cells from adult human bone marrow, called stromal cells, eliminates the ethical and logistical issues that arise with the use of cells from fetal tissue, Storch said. And use of cells from bone marrow that would be converted and transplanted into the same person’s brain eliminates ethical issues and immune-system problems that can arise when the body rejects cells from an outside source.

For the study, the researchers took the adult human bone marrow stromal cells and cultured them with growth factors.

Other benefits of this process are that the cells can be converted quickly – within a few weeks – and a small amount of bone marrow can produce a large amount of converted cells, Storch said.

More research is needed before the converted cells can be tested in humans. Animal studies are under way to explore the regenerative potential of the converted cells in animal models of acute and chronic neurodegenerative disorders, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The researchers also need to determine the best way to administer the cells into the brain.

The study was supported by the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research, Ulm, the Polish-German Cooperation in Neuroscience Program, and the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, autism and multiple sclerosis.

Kathy Stone | EurekAlert!
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