To be able to fix the fine structure of damaged neural networks using transplanted stem cells would require a way to guide the stem cells to line up in a desired way. Researchers from University of California, Davis and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China have discovered that they can use electric current to point to the transplanted stem cells where they should be going. The investigators built a special device to do this systematically, opening the possibility that nerve damage, and so many cases of paralysis, may end up being treatable.
In order to study whether stem cells can be motivated to migrate in a direction they would normally not go, the researchers targeted naturally occurring brain stem cells that we produce deep in the brain and that normally travel by certain pathway to the outer layers of the brain.
In a mouse study, stem cells that would normally travel one way through the rostral migration stream, a channel in rat brains that cells traverse to get to the olfactory bulb, were successfully reversed using low energy electric current to travel in the opposite direction.
The team checked the location of the guided stem cells in the weeks and months after the procedure, demonstrating that they remained in the area where they were asked to go.
Study in journal Stem Cell Reports: Electrical Guidance of Human Stem Cells in the Rat Brain…
Image: Transplanted stem cells (green, in inset on right) directed toward one part of a rat’s brain using electrical fields. Credit: Junfeng Feng