Stem-cell discovery: reversing Alzheimer's?

Human neural stem cells. Courtesy UC Irvine radiation oncology professor Charles Limoli.

Human neural stem cells restored memory in mice with brain symptoms similar to Alzheimers disease, UC Irvine scientists reported Tuesday, opening the door to eventual treatment for human sufferers.

The announcement, made at an Alzheimers science conference in Vancouver, involves versatile though still largely mysterious neural stem cells grown in the lab by StemCells Inc., of Newark, Ca.

The cells, researchers at UCI and elsewhere have shown, can become many types of cells once injected into the body restoring limb movement in mice with crushed spines, halting blindness in rats and, now, improving memory and brain function in mice bred to exhibit the kinds of impairment seen in Alzheimers.

Youve probably heard about the God particle scientists have been working on, said Martin McGlynn, president and CEO of StemCells Inc. This isnt quite the God cell, but its an incredibly fascinating biological agent.

Over the past 12 to 18 months, scientists including Frank LaFerla, director of UCI MIND, worked on a treatment involving injection of the human neural stem cells into the brains of two kinds of mouse models those bred to model the effects of Alzheimers, and those bred to model the loss of neurons in a part of the brain known as the hippocampus.

Both animal models reported improvement in memory function, in a statistical way, McGlynn said.

Matthew Blurton-Jones, an assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior at UCI, presented the results of the Alzheimers work Tuesday at the Alzheimers Association International Conference.

Part of the scientists aim was to learn whether human neural cells placed in mice functioned as well as mouse neural cells.

That is one of the fascinating things about this, McGlynn said. They look like, smell like, walk like, dance like a human neural stem cell, (but) theyre fully regulated and submissive to the mouse, to the host.

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Stem-cell discovery: reversing Alzheimer's?

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