The article below was passed to me by a dear friend and it sounds both promising and exciting! Read on...
Newly Discovered Brain Cell Could be Key to Multiple Sclerosis Therapies
Institute researchers have identified a type of cell within the human brain that may be a previously unknown precursor to the stem cells that are capable of promoting growth of new neurons. The discovery could lead to new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Bruce D. Trapp, PhD, Chair of the Institute's Department of Neurosciences and a leading multiple sclerosis researcher, said the cells called beta 4 tubulin (betaT4) are scattered throughout a region of the brain called the subventricular zone. This zone is known to be a source of stem cells capable of regenerating neurons. It is within the cerebrum, the part of the human brain responsible for social interaction, learning, memory, speech and language, and motor functions.
“Strategies for cell replacement to treat neurodegenerative diseases are very attractive and offer therapeutic possibilities. One example is generating the cells needed to replace the myelin that surrounds, protects and nourishes the neurons in the central nervous system. It's the loss of this myelin that causes lesions in multiple sclerosis [MS] brains,” Dr. Trapp said.
Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) generate new oligodendrocytes, which are required to produce myelin. “Unfortunately, OPC growth is limited, so MS lesions often don't remyelinate. Stimulating other types of precursor cells shows great potential in promoting oligodendrocyte production and remyelination in MS patients,” Dr. Trapp said.
Dr. Trapp's research points to betaT4 cells as one of the precursor cells needed for remyelination.
The presence of betaT4 cells in the subventricular zone peaks during the later stages of fetal brain development, but decreases shortly after birth – suggesting the cells' role in forming neurons. Researchers also found that the number of betaT4 cells significantly increases in the subventricular zone that borders MS lesions in the white matter of brains.
“In our research, we observed that the myelin generated by a relatively small number of transplanted betaT4 cells exceeded that of another known progenitor cell,” Dr. Trapp said. “It's still not clear if betaT4 cells are true stem cells or primitive precursors to stem cells, and the potential of stem cell therapeutics to treat neurodegenerative disease requires additional studies of stem cells in human brains.
“But we propose that betaT4 cells represent a cellular source for the latter stages of myelination and neural repair in the central nervous system” he said. “They could be a promising new direction for cell replacement therapies for neurodegenerative disease.”
Dr. Trapp's collaborators include Chuanshen Wu, PhD, Ansi Chang, MD, Maria C. Smith, Roy Won, Xinghua Yin, MD, Susan M. Staugaitis, MD, PhD, and Grahame Kidd, PhD, of the Institute's Department of Neurosciences; Dimitri Agamanolis, MD, of the Department of Pathology at Akron Children's Hospital; and Robert H. Miller, PhD, of the Department of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The findings appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience ( www.jneurosci.org/ June 16, 2009). The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.