Human Stem Cells Injected In Mice Restore Memory, Learning …

April 22, 2013

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports Your Universe Online

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have successfully transformed human embryonic stem cells into nerve cells that helped mice regain their memory and the ability to learn.

Senior author Su-Chun Zhang, a professor of neuroscience and neurology at the university, said that he and his colleagues have for the first time demonstrated that human stem cells can implant themselves in the brain and heal neurological defects.

Once they were inserted into the brain of the rodents, the implanted stem cells formed two common but essential types of neurons. Those neurons which Zhang said are involved with many different types of human behavior, emotions, learning, memory, and psychiatric issues communicate with the chemicals GABA or acetylcholine.

The embryonic stem cells used in the study were cultured in a laboratory using chemicals known to promote development into nerve cells. Zhang has worked on similar projects for the past 15 years, according to the university, and has helped pioneer research in the field.

As for the mice, they were said to be a special type which did not reject transplants from other species. An area of their brains responsible for memory and learning, known as the medial septum, were then intentionally damaged. The medial septum connects to the GABA and cholinergic neurons, Zhang said.

This circuitry is fundamental to our ability to learn and remember, he added.

The human cells were transplanted into the hippocampus, a key memory center located at the opposite end of those memory circuits. Following the successful implementation of the stem cells, the mice reportedly scored significantly better on common tests in both memory and learning.

After the transferred cells were implanted, in response to chemical directions from the brain, they started to specialize and connect to the appropriate cells in the hippocampus, the university explained in a statement. The process is akin to removing a section of telephone cable If you can find the correct route, you could wire the replacement from either end.

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