Posted on Mar 28, 2011, 6 a.m.
Northwestern University (US) scientists turn human embryonic stem cells in to a type of brain cell that is lost in Alzheimer's disease.
An early substantial loss of basal forebrain cholinergic (BFC) neurons is a predominant feature of Alzheimer's disease and is associated leads to memory-retrieval problems, one of the most disabling aspects of the illness. Christopher John Bissonnette, from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine (Illinois, USA), and colleagues coaxed embryonic stem cells to become BFC replacement cells, sufficiently stable to survive indefinitely under laboratory conditions. Once implanted in to laboratory mice, the researchers found that the new neural material sent out connecting fibers to the hippocampus and appeared to function in the same way as the naturally occurring BFC cells. The researchers conclude that: “The ability to selectively control the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into [basal forebrain cholinergic (BFC) neurons] is a significant step … for the development of both cell-transplant-mediated therapeutic interventions for Alzheimer's disease.”
Christopher John Bissonnette, Ljuba Lyass, Bula J Bhattacharyya, Abdelhak Belmadani, Richard J Miller, John A Kessler. “The Controlled Generation of Functional Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons from Human Embryonic Stem Cells.” Stem Cells, March 4, 2011.