Researchers have taken the first steps to create neural-like stem cells from muscle tissue in animals.
"Reversing brain degeneration and trauma lesions will depend on cell therapy, but we can't harvest neural stem cells from the brain or spinal cord without harming the donor," Osvaldo Delbono, lead author of the study from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said.
"Skeletal muscle tissue, which makes up 50 percent of the body, is easily accessible and biopsies of muscle are relatively harmless to the donor, so we think it may be an alternative source of neural-like cells that potentially could be used to treat brain or spinal cord injury, neurodegenerative disorders, brain tumours and other diseases, although more studies are needed," Delbono said.
In an earlier study, the Wake Forest Baptist team isolated neural precursor cells derived from skeletal muscle of adult transgenic mice.
In the current research, the team isolated neural precursor cells from in vitro adult skeletal muscle of various species including non-human primates and aging mice, and showed that these cells not only survived in the brain, but also migrated to the area of the brain where neural stem cells originate.
Another issue the researchers investigated was whether these neural-like cells would form tumours, a characteristic of many types of stem cells. To test this, the team injected the cells below the skin and in the brains of mice, and after one month, no tumours were found.
"Right now, patients with glioblastomas or other brain tumours have very poor outcomes and relatively few treatment options," Alexander Birbrair, first author of the study, said.
"Because our cells survived and migrated in the brain, we may be able to use them as drug-delivery vehicles in the future, not only for brain tumours but also for other central nervous system diseases," he added.
The findings of the study have been published online in the journals Experimental Cell Research and Stem Cell Research.