The premise of growing "therapeutic" brain cells in the laboratory has moved a step closer to reality. Scientists hope that these cells can be re-integrated back into patients' brains to treat a wide range of neurological conditions.
According to new research published online in The FASEB Journal, brain cells from a small biopsy can be used to grow large numbers of new personalized cells that are not only "healthy," but also possess powerful attributes to preserve and protect the brain from future injury, toxins and diseases. Scientists are hopeful that ultimately these cells could be transformed in the laboratory to yield specific cell types needed for a particular treatment, or to cross the "blood-brain barrier" by expressing specific therapeutic agents that are released directly into the brain.
"This work is an example of how integrating basic science and clinical care may reveal privileged opportunities for biomedical research," said Matthew O. Hebb, M.D., Ph.D., FRCSC, a researcher involved in the work from the Departments of Clinical Neurological Sciences (Neurosurgery), Oncology and Otolaryngology at the University of Western Ontario in Ontario, Canada. "It is our hope that the results of this study provide a footing for further advancement of personalized, cell-based treatments for currently incurable and devastating neurological disorders."
"From an extremely small amount of brain tissue, we will one day be able to do very big things," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "For centuries, treating the brain effectively and safely has been elusive. This advance opens the doors to not only new therapies for a myriad of brain diseases, but new ways of delivering therapies as well."