Genetic research develops tools for studying diseases, improving regenerative treatment

Research from a Kansas State University professor may make it easier to recover after spinal cord injury or to study neurological disorders.

Mark Weiss, professor of anatomy and physiology, is researching for spinal cord injury or diseases such as Parkinson's disease. He is developing technology that can advance and regenerative medicine -- a type of research that can greatly improve animal and human health.

"We're trying to build tools, trying to build models that will have broad applications," Weiss said. "So if you're interested in or if you're interested in response after an injury, we're trying to come up with cell lines that will teach us, help us to solve a medical mystery."

Weiss' research team has perfected a technique to use stem cells to study targeted . They are among a handful of laboratories in the world using these types of models for disease. The research is an important step in the field of , which focuses on understanding the functions and roles of these genes in disease.

The researchers are creating several tools to study functional genomics. One such tool involves developing new ways to use fluorescent transporters, which make it easier to study proteins and their functions. These fluorescent transporters can be especially helpful when studying neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury.

"People who have spinal cord injury do not experience a lot of regeneration," Weiss said. "It is one of the problems of the nervous system -- it is not great at regenerating itself like other tissues."

The researchers want to discover a way to help this regenerative process kick in. By studying signals from fluorescing cells, they can understand how are reactivated.

"We want to try and make these , and then we can test different kinds of treatment to see how they assist in the regenerative process," Weiss said.

Weiss' stem cell research has appeared in two recent journals: Stem Cells and Development and the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and university funds, including the Johnson Cancer Research Center.

Weiss' seven-member research team includes a visiting professor, two full-time researchers, a graduate student and three undergraduates. He has also been collaborating with researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Weiss was also part of a Kansas State University research team to find and patent a noncontroversial source of stem cells from a substance in the umbilical cord.

Related Stories

Stem cells used to reverse paralysis in animals

Jan 28, 2009

A new study has found that transplantation of stem cells from the lining of the spinal cord, called ependymal stem cells, reverses paralysis associated with spinal cord injuries in laboratory tests. The findings show that ...

Damaged spinal cord tissue repaired by stem cells

Oct 08, 2010

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have shown how stem cells, together with other cells, repair damaged tissue in the mouse spinal cord. The results are of potential significance to the development of therapies for spinal ...

Recommended for you

Stress reaction may be in your dad's DNA, study finds

Nov 21, 2014

Stress in this generation could mean resilience in the next, a new study suggests. Male mice subjected to unpredictable stressors produced offspring that showed more flexible coping strategies when under ...

More genetic clues found in a severe food allergy

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists have identified four new genes associated with the severe food allergy eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). Because the genes appear to have roles in other allergic diseases and in inflammation, the ...

Brain-dwelling worm in UK man's head sequenced

Nov 20, 2014

For the first time, the genome of a rarely seen tapeworm has been sequenced. The genetic information of this invasive parasite, which lived for four years in a UK resident's brain, offers new opportunities ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.