Sometimes in science the best discoveries are those that are unexpected. Researchers in California were trying to get bone marrow stem cells to grow by introducing an antibodies to the cells. Instead the cells began to form neural cells. U.S. News & World Report has the story:
Scientists have discovered an antibody that can turn stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow directly into brain cells, a potential breakthrough in the treatment of neurological diseases and injuries.
Richard Lerner, of the Scripps Research Institute in California, says that when a specific antibody is injected into stem cells from bone marrow—which normally turn into white blood cells—the cells can be triggered to turn into brain cells.
“There’s been a lot of research activity where people would like to repair brain and spinal cord injuries,” Lerner says. “With this method, you can go to a person’s own stem cells and turn them into brain cells that can repair nerve injuries.”
Neural cells straight from your own bone marrow. Remarkable.
Obviously, scientists need to do more research into this technique before it could be used to treat patients, but this route is sure better than using aborted fetuses as a source of neural cells. LifeNews reported last week that StemCells Inc. has been given FDA approval to test their “purified human neural stem cell product,” which is derived from the “fresh human fetal brain tissue,” in a clinical trial to treat macular degeneration.
This antibody method is preferable not only because no lives need be destroyed to harvest the stem cells, but also because there is always a risk of rejection when using cells from another human being. Making neural cells from a patient’s own bone marrow would eliminate that problem.
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In fact, one of the areas that Lerner envisions using this technique for is the eye:
The team plans to start animal tests of the technology soon.
“We’re going to collaborate with people who are trying to regenerate nerves in the eye,” Lerner says. “We will team up with a couple people strong in that area of research.”
Here is hoping that the animal trials prove this technique is safe and effective so that researchers can see that there is a better alternative to aborted babies for neural stem cells.