Unveiling a delivery method that may one day help surgeons treat the deadly neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have inserted engineered human stem cells into the spinal cords of ALS-afflicted rats.
Reporting their work today (April 19) in the journal Human Gene Therapy, the scientists directed certain types of neural stem cells to secrete a neuron-protecting protein before injecting them into the rat spinal cord where motor neurons reside. Motor neurons dictate muscle movement by relaying messages from the spinal cord and brain to the rest of the body. ALS causes the neurons to progressively decay and die.
Notably, the UW-Madison stem cell researchers did not work with human embryonic stem cells, blank-slate cells that arise during the earliest stages of development and can develop into any of the 220 tissue and cell types in humans. Scientists have long regarded these cells as a crucial ingredient in the quest to cure spinal injuries and neurodegenerative disease.
Clive Svendsen | EurekAlert!
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