Abstracts from Neuroscience Meeting Detail Progress Making Stem Cell Therapies for Neurological Diseases

At the 42nd annual Society for Neuroscience meeting from October 13-17, 2012 in New Orleans, La, several new animal studies were presented that bring us closer to stem-based treatments for Parkinson’s disease, head trauma, and dangerous heart problems that accompany spinal cord injury. These posters describe work that shows that scientists are learning how to repair neurological damage with stem cells.

These studies all tried to use stem cells to generate new neurons to replace diseased or damaged neurons. Neurons are the cells in the nervous system that can generate and propagate nerve impulses. Neuron losses and the loss of connections between neurons cause loss of control over critical bodily functions. Such losses (over the control of critical bodily functions are the chief hallmarks of brain and spinal cord injuries and of neurodegenerative afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

These meeting abstracts include;

Abstract 314.11 – Dustin Wakefield: Neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells implanted in monkeys displaying symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear to have matured into healthy, dopamine-producing neurons without causing any adverse effects.
Abstract 637.10 – Armin Blesch: Life-threatening heart problems caused by spinal cord injury were partially remedied in rats treated with stem cells derived from the fetal brainstem. The findings suggest new avenues of research for repairing cardiovascular damage in human patients with spinal cord injuries
Abstract 823.07 – Nathaniel Hartman: Experiments in mice indicate it may be possible to activate dormant stem cells in the adult prompting the production of new neurons that might help repair damage caused by injury.
Abstract 823.04 – Anthony Conway: Scientists believe they have isolated a protein that can signal the adult brain to produce more neurons, raising the possibility that boosting production of the protein could help patients recover neurons lost to degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS, or to trauma, such as spinal cord injury.

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Professor of Biochemistry at Spring Arbor University (SAU) in Spring Arbor, MI. Have been at SAU since 1999. Author of The Stem Cell Epistles. Before that I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA (1997-1999), and Sussex University, Falmer, UK (1994-1997). I studied Cell and Developmental Biology at UC Irvine (PhD 1994), and Microbiology at UC Davis (MA 1986, BS 1984).