Adult stem cells were injected into a mouse blastocyst, an early embryonic stage of a mouse. The result is the birth of a chimerical animal an animal that shows the presence of both the cells from the host mouse as well as cells that have developed from the transplanted stem cells. Within the brain, the transplanted stem cells developed into nerve cells that typically conduct electrical impulses, glial cells that provide support to the nerve cells, and myelin-forming cells that enhance the conduction of electrical impulses by nerve cells.
"This research takes our findings a step further," said principal investigator Walter C. Low, Ph.D., department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota Medical School.
Researchers looked at the specific phenotypes of the cells in the brain and found stem cell produced nerve cells in regions of the brain that undergo degeneration with Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, ataxia, and Alzheimer's disease.
"This tells us that these adult stem cells are capable of becoming nerve cells that communicate with other nerve cells within the brain and form proper neural circuits that permit the chimerical mice to function normally," said co-investigator Catherine Verfaillie, M.D., director of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota.
"The next step is to test what happens when the adult stem cells are used to treat mice and rats with neurological disorders," said lead author Dirk Keene, an M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Researchers expect answers to that question within the year. Xilma Ortiz-Gonzalez, Yuehua Jiang, and David Largeaspada were co-authors on this study.
This research was funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health.