Interesting news out of the University of Florida where researchers have demonstrated the ability of average brain cells to display properties of stem cells, namely self-renewal and adaptability:
Writing online today (Aug. 16) in Development, scientists from UF’s McKnight Brain Institute describe how they used mature human brain cells taken from epilepsy patients to generate new brain tissue in mice.
Furthermore, they can coax these pedestrian human cells to produce large amounts of new brain cells in culture, with one cell theoretically able to begin a cycle of cell division that does not stop until the cells number about 10 to the 16th power.
“We can theoretically take a single brain cell out of a human being and — with just this one cell — generate enough brain cells to replace every cell of the donor’s brain and conceivably those of 50 million other people,” said Dennis Steindler, executive director of UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. “This is a completely new source of human brain cells that can potentially be used to fight Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and a host of other brain disorders. It would probably only take months to get enough material for a human transplant operation.”
The findings document for the first time the ability of common human brain cells to morph into different cell types, a previously unknown characteristic, and are the result of the research team’s long-term investigations of adult human stem cells and rodent embryonic stem cells.