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‘Human brain cells in mice’ technique could help tackle Parkinson’s

Scientists at the University of California say they can now grow key human brain cells by implanting them in lab mice.

Image: lculig via Shutterstock

SCIENTISTS IN CALIFORNIA say they have been able to grow key cells from the human brain in the bodies of lab mice – raising hopes that the technique could be used to grow new cells to counter serious neurological conditions.

The researchers at the University of California in San Francisco say a progenitor cell called the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) – a type of cell which is key in the development of the brain – has been able to flourish when transplanted into the brain of a mouse.

The MGE cells, in turn, can be artificially grown in a laboratory through the manipulation of stem cells, whether extracted from an embryonic state or induced from existing human skin cells.

The growth in the brain of a mouse strongly resembles the development that occurs in human development, the researchers said – and integrated themselves into the brain by forming connections with the rodents’ own nerves and then maturing into specialised types of ‘interneurons’, cells which control nerve circuits in the brain.

MGE cells are relatively unusual in that they only form one single type of interneuron – meaning they can be used as a more controllable and predictable way of tackling conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, where the neural system becomes overactive.

ScienceDaily.com reports that the treatment – if used in clinical trials – could even be used to treat the complications of major spinal cord injury. Researchers at UCSF have already used MGE cell transplantation to reduce neuropathic pain.

“The hope is that we can deliver these cells to various places within the nervous system that have been overactive and that they will functionally integrate and provide regulated inhibition,” said Dr Cory Nicholas who worked on the project.

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Gavan Reilly

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