Scientists succeed through stem cell therapy in reversing brain birth defects

December 29, 2008
New brain cells (green stain) induced in the heroin damaged brain by transplantation of neural stem cells. Credit: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have succeeded in reversing brain birth defects in animal models, using stem cells to replace defective brain cells.

The work of Prof. Joseph Yanai and his associates at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School was presented at the Tel Aviv Stem Cells Conference last spring and is expected to be presented and published nest year at the seventh annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Barcelona, Spain.

Involved in the project with Prof. Yanai are Prof. Tamir Ben-Hur, head of the Department of Neurology at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, and his group, as well as Prof. Ted Slotkin at Duke University in North Carolina, where Prof. Yanai is an adjunct professor.

Neural and behavioral birth defects, such as learning disabilities, are particularly difficult to treat, compared to defects with known cause factors such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease, because the prenatal teratogen - the substances that cause the abnormalities -- act diffusely in the fetal brain, resulting in multiple defects.

Prof. Yanai and his associates were able to overcome this obstacle in laboratory tests with mice by using mouse embryonic neural stem cells. These cells migrate in the brain, search for the deficiency that caused the defect, and then differentiate into becoming the cells needed to repair the damage.

Generally speaking, stem cells may develop into any type of cell in the body, however at a certain point they begin to commit to a general function, such as neural stem cells, destined to play a role in the brain/ nervous system. At more advanced developmental stages, the neural stem cells take on an even more specific role as neural or glial (supporting) cells within the brain/ nervous system.

In the researchers' animal model, they were able to reverse learning deficits in the offspring of pregnant mice who were exposed to organophosphate (a pesticide) and heroin. This was done by direct neural stem cell transplantation into the brains of the offspring. The recovery was almost one hundred percent, as proved in behavioral tests in which the treated animals improved to normal behavior and learning scores after the transplantation. On the molecular level, brain chemistry of the treated animals was also restored to normal.

The researchers went one step further. Puzzled by the stem cells' ability to work even in those cases where most of them died out in the host brain, the scientists went on to discover that the neural stem cells succeed before they die in inducing the host brain itself to produce large number of stem cells which repair the damage. This discovery, finally settling a major question in stem cell research, evoked great interest and was published earlier this year in one of the leading journals in the field, Molecular Psychiatry.

The scientists are now in the midst of developing procedures for the least invasive method for administering the neural stem cells, which is probably via blood vessels, thus making the therapy practical and clinically feasible.

Normally, stem cells are derived from individuals genetically different from the patient to be transplanted, and therefore the efficacy of the treatment suffers from immunological rejection. For this reason, another important avenue of the ongoing study, toward the same goals, will be to eliminate the immunological rejection of the transplant, which will become possible by taking cells from the patient's own body -- from a place where they are easily obtained -- by manipulating them to return to their stem cell phase of development, and then transplanting them into the patient's brain via the blood stream. One important advantage of this approach will be to eliminate the controversial ethical issues involved in the use of embryo stem cells.

Source: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Explore further: New evidence for coordinated hedgehog and Wnt pathway activation in appendage regeneration

Related Stories

New evidence for coordinated hedgehog and Wnt pathway activation in appendage regeneration

September 20, 2018
Researchers have made a significant new discovery concerning the signaling mechanisms that enable newts to regrow their tails after injury. Specifically, this process is shown to require the coordinated activation of the ...

Researchers identify human skeletal stem cells

September 20, 2018
Human skeletal stem cells that become bone, cartilage, or stroma cells have been isolated from fetal and adult bones. This is the first time that skeletal stem cells, which had been observed in rodent models, have been identified ...

Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone and cartilage in humans

September 20, 2018
A decade-long effort led by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists has been rewarded with the identification of the human skeletal stem cell.

Intestines modify their cellular structure in response to diet

September 20, 2018
Body organs such as the intestine and ovaries undergo structural changes in response to dietary nutrients that can have lasting impacts on metabolism, as well as cancer susceptibility, according to Carnegie's Rebecca Obniski, ...

Scientists grow human esophagus in lab

September 20, 2018
Scientists working to bioengineer the entire human gastrointestinal system in a laboratory now report using pluripotent stem cells to grow human esophageal organoids.

Understanding epilepsy in pediatric tumors

September 20, 2018
Pediatric brain tumors are characterized by frequent complications due to intractable epilepsy compared to adult brain tumors. However, the genetic cause of refractory epilepsy in pediatric brain cancer has not been elucidated ...

Recommended for you

A Trojan Horse delivery for treating a rare, potentially deadly, blood-clotting disorder

September 21, 2018
In proof-of-concept experiments, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have highlighted a potential therapy for a rare but potentially deadly blood-clotting disorder, TTP. The researchers deliver this therapeutic ...

Japanese team creates human oogonia using human stem cells in artificial mouse ovaries

September 21, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in Japan has successfully generated human oogonia inside of artificial mouse ovaries using human stem cells. In their paper published in the journal Science, the ...

A new approach to developing a vaccine against vivax malaria

September 21, 2018
A novel study reports an innovative approach for developing a vaccine against Plasmodium vivax, the most prevalent human malaria parasite outside sub-Saharan Africa. The study led by Hernando A. del Portillo and Carmen Fernandez-Becerra, ...

Researchers explore how changes in diet alter microbiome in artificial intestine

September 21, 2018
Using an artificial intestine they created, researchers have shown that the microbiome can quickly adapt from the bacterial equivalent of a typical western diet to one composed exclusively of dietary fats. That adaptation ...

A new app enables a smartphone to ID bacteria in just one hour

September 20, 2018
In a potential game changer for the health care industry, a new cell phone app and lab kit now allow a smartphone to identify bacteria from patients anywhere in the world. With the new app, doctors will be able to diagnose ...

Zombie cells found in brains of mice prior to cognitive loss

September 19, 2018
Zombie cells are the ones that can't die but are equally unable to perform the functions of a normal cell. These zombie, or senescent, cells are implicated in a number of age-related diseases. And with a new letter in Nature, ...

0 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.