The new discovery may lead to a viable treatment for common nervous system disorders such as spinal cord and brain injury, Parkinsons disease and Bells Palsy.
It all started with Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka who was the first to transform normal tissue in to what doctors call induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). For this he used four distinct genetic factors.
You see, every specialized tissue in the body originally starts off as a collection of stem cells in the central nervous system and spinal cord. So, the closer we get to replicating early stages without having to resort to fetal tissue, the more useful stem cells become.
That is so vital because along with it comes our ability to treat some of the most common diseases out there – which have to do with the central nervous system and cardiorespiratory system (heart/lung disease, back pain), otherwise considered the earliest parts of our body to develop.
Andreas Trumpp, a researcher at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) performed a similar technique using different genetic factors that led an even earlier stage of development. They called the new class “induced Neural Plate Border Stem Cells” (iNBSCs), which can develop in to either cells of the nervous system or cells of the neural crest (i.e. peripheral sensitive nerve cells, skull cartilage)
In the future patients may only need to sacrifice some blood in exchange for genetically compatible nerve cells that treat a variety of disorders such as brain and spinal coord injury, parkinsons disease and bells palsy.
“This was a major breakthrough for stem cell research,” Trumpp said in a statement.
“This applies in particular to for research in Germany, where the generation of human embryonic stem cells is not permitted. Stem cells have enormous potential both for basic research and for the development of regenerative therapies that aim to restore diseased tissue in patients. However, reprogramming is also associated with problems: For example, pluripotent cells can form germ line tumors, so-called teratomas.”
“They are therefore of interesting both for basic research and the search for new active substances and for the development of regenerative therapies, for example in patients with diseases of the nervous system. However until we can use them in patients, a lot of research work will still be necessary,” Trumpp concluded
The findings were reported in the journal Cell Stem Cell.