Investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a way to monitor neural stem cells after they’ve been transplanted into the brain.
The scientists were able to determine not only whether the stem cells transplanted into living animals survived but whether they matured into nerve cells, integrated into targeted brain circuits and, most important, were firing on cue and igniting activity in downstream nerve circuits.
Imagine that a police bomb squad comes upon a diabolically designed bomb controlled by a tangled mass of different wires, lights and switches, some of which have a real function while others are decoys. The police don’t know how to begin defusing the bomb because they don’t know which parts are important. Then imagine the police discover the bomb-making factory and are able to see hundreds of these bombs at various stages of construction. With this information, they can reconstruct how the bomb was put together, and therefore how to disarm it.
For a team of researchers at
When most groups of mammalian cells are faced with a shortage of nutrients or oxygen, the phrase “every man for himself” is more apt than “all for one, one for all.” Unlike colonies of bacteria, which often cooperate to thrive as a group, mammalian cells have never been observed to help one another out. But a new study led by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine has shown that certain human embryonic stem cells, in times of stress, produce molecules that not only benefit themselves, but also help nearby cells survive.
“Altruism has been reported among bacterial
Mouse skin cells can be converted directly into cells that become the three main parts of the nervous system, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding is an extension of a previous study by the same group showing that mouse and human skin cells can be directly converted into functional neurons.
The multiple successes of the direct conversion method could refute the idea that pluripotency (a term that describes the ability of stem cells to become nearly any cell in the body) is necessary for a cell to transform from one cell type to another.
Even Superman needed to retire to a phone booth for a quick change. But now scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have succeeded in the ultimate switch: transforming mouse skin cells in a laboratory dish directly into functional nerve cells with the application of just three genes. The cells make the change without first becoming a pluripotent type of stem cell — a step long thought to be required for cells to acquire new identities.
The finding could revolutionize the future of human stem cell therapy and recast our understanding of how cells choose and maintain their specialties