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Stem Cells to Restore Brain Activity
February 17, 2009 21:38

Mesenchymal stromal cells

Russian neurologists work on a new technique for treating neurological disturbances by means of mesenchymal stromal cells, extracted from human adipose tissues.

Cognitive abilities of brain – thought, intellect, ability to experience and learn – are among most important functions of human organism. Brain failures may result in various neurological disturbances, one of which is Huntington’s chorea. This neurogenerative disease is hereditary and is considered to have almost no response to treatment. The only hope of medics is cell therapy.

“Chorea” origins from the Greek word “choreia”, which means “dance”. Specific features of this disease are fast uncontrollable movements of various muscles. Ten out of one hundred thousand people aren’t lucky to have this disease. Huntington’s chorea can appear in any age, caused by death of highly sensitive neurons, located in specific parts of brain – basal ganglions. People with this diagnosis suffer a lot – coordination of their movements is poor, and cognitive abilities disrupt. Russian scientists performed a research, which allowed concluding that stem cells from patient’s adipose tissues can be an effective cure for such neurological disorders.

Stem cells from human adipose tissues have some advantages compared to other stem cells. First, such tissues contain a lot of stem cells, which can be easily extracted. This means when science develops necessary techniques, any human being can have stem cells “made from his own material”, thus eliminating the problem of histocompatibility and various ethic problems.



Scientists tried their idea on laboratory rats. Rats were made to suffer from some kind of Huntington’s chorea by means of everyday injections of 3-nitropropionic acid. This neurotoxin is known to cause a stable oxidative stress and death of basal ganglion neurons. Rodents started showing symptoms, similar to human Huntington’s chorea. After a week of injections half of rats received suspension of activated pluripotent mesenchymal stromal cells, extracted from human adipose tissues, into right ventricle of cerebrum. These stem cells can differentiate into various cell types, including neural cells. The toxin caused clear symptoms of neurological disturbances in rats, however, the experiment showed that even single injection of stem cells helped rodents feel much better. Disturbances were almost eliminated, exploratory activity increased, and learning ability also restored after nearly total loss.

Exploratory activity of rats was estimated by means of the open field test. The ability to learn was measured in Morris’s water maze. Scientists noticed that rats’ brain neurons changed their shape. The toxin made them elongated and small, and transplantation of stem cells restored both size and shape of the cells. Researchers consider their results to be encouraging, since they consider stem cells to be the “cure-all” for many, if not to say all diseases. Well, animal tests are only first steps of the long way. Clinical trials of the technique aren’t close – scientists need to check possible long-term effects of the technique and to develop a method to introduce stem cells into brain.

Details of this work are published in the latest issue of the “Cell Technologies in Biology and Medicine” journal, edited by Russian academy of Medical Sciences.

Source: Science & Technology

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists     

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