Researchers have recently found a way of creating brain cells out of bone marrow cells which opens up the possibility of grafts for Parkinson's disease. At the Peterson Medical College scientists grew stem cells from adult bone marrow in a finely-tuned cocktail of growth factors and other chemicals and found they could get them to convert into neurons.
Normally such stem cells form muscle, bone, cartilage and fat. The researchers say they were very surprised to find the cells could be persuaded to turn into neurons, it flies in the face of much of what we know about development of tissues and organs.
However, once the right growth factor cocktail had been concocted, it took just an hour to turn 100 per cent of the stem cells into neurons. The cells were also producing specific brain chemicals like serotonin, a compound that's lacking in depression. The hope is to create neurons that would produce dopamine, which is depleted in Parkinson's disease, as the basis for a brain implant using the patient's own bone marrow. This would sidestep ethical and technical problems around using embryonic stem cells.