Scientists Create Brain Cells, Predict Possible Rapid Development of Treatments for Alzheimers and P

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2005 ( - American researchers have found a method of growing batches, or lines, of fully mature brain cells. This has often been predicted as the end of such neurological diseases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. The ethical new technique mimics the brain’s own natural process of changing stem cells into neurons. For the moment, the research has been confined to mice, but the researchers are hopeful that their work can soon be transferred to human patients.

Bjorn Scheffler, a neuroscientist at Florida University said, “Our study shows for the first time the entire process that goes on in our brain for life. We can, in a dish, recapture the process in front of our eyes.”

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said they had also found an efficient way to make the cells replicate. “It’s like an assembly line to manufacture and increase the number of brain cells,” said Dr. Scheffler.

Researchers have often said that the development of replicated brain cells was decades away, but also that once they were available, the severe brain illnesses would shortly become a memory like polio and small pox.

This is not the first time brain cells have been grown in the lab from stem cells. “But nobody has been capable of replicating the process from the very first step to the very last step - it’s unique to get the whole process happening before your eyes,” said Scheffler

With most such breakthroughs, the scientists warn that the research needs further development and that actual cures are a long way off. Not so in this case, however. In unusually optimistic language, Dr. Dennis Steindler, a member of the Florida team said he has high hopes for the discovery yielding therapeutic results quickly.

“The home run is that we will find drugs to mobilize our own population (of brain stem cells), which is what this study is focusing on. I’m quite optimistic we will translate this to human therapeutics in the very near future,” he said.

“Because advances in the field of regenerative medicine are occurring so quickly at the moment, it could be anytime. It could be next week, it could be ten years. I’d like it to be next week.”

Invariably, news media reporting on stem cell breakthroughs with embryos mention the ‘magic pair’ of diseases: Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as justification for allowing researchers access to living embryos. More and more reports, however, are coming forward that show that embryo research is a dead end and the real future lies with adult stem cell research.
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