Contact: Susan Preston
Researchers Find Adult Marrow Cells Become
Neurons in the Embryonic Brain
Study Appears in the May 12 Issue of Journal of Neuroscience
Adult bone marrow stem cells transplanted to the living rat
embryonic brain differentiate into neurons, according to scientists
from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School.
The team found that the cells migrated throughout the brain,
activated selected genes appropriate to specialized brain regions,
and survived at least into young adulthood.
Thes research, published in the May 12 issue of The Journal
of Neuroscience, may foster new approaches to birth defects
and developmental abnormalities.
Four years ago the scientific team, led By Dr. Ira Black, chairman
of the Department of Neuroscience at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson
Medical School, succeeded in converting adult human and rat marrow
cells into neurons in cell culture.
Their next question was whether this same conversion could occur
in the living brain. To explore this possibility, the researchers
grew marrow cells in culture, collected them, and injected them
into the brains of embryos in the rat uterus. The brains were
then examined prenatally, just after birth and during young adulthood.
"It's exciting that the marrow cells exhibited the same flexibility
in the living brain as we had observed in culture," said Dr. Black,
who is also director of The Stem Cell Center at UMDNJ-Robert Wood
Johnson Medical School.
The cells migrated throughout the brain, populating the cerebral
cortex, the thinking region, and centers that serve learning and
memory. "Remarkably, marrow cells also localized to germinal areas
that give rise to new neurons," said Dr. Black, "and may be a
source of new neurons for a prolonged period."
The marrow cells formed guiding fibers that direct neurons to
distant sites, and also formed the migrating neurons themselves.
In all, thousands of marrow cell-derived neurons populated the
The scientists also identified super-specialized neurons that
activated genes which are critical in the neurons that degenerate
in Parkinson's disease. They are presently studying the use of
marrow cells in models of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
"We hope to examine the function of these special cells in degenerative
neuropsychiatric disorders and spinal cord injury."
To arrange an interview with Dr. Black, please call
Susan Preston in the UMDNJ News Service at (973) 972-7265 or e-mail
her at email@example.com.