In a new experiment, nerve stem cells from infant mice were injected into mice with damaged brains, and appeared to restore memory. From the story:
Tests showed stem cells, the body’s basic building blocks used for repair and growth, can turn into new brain cells and produce a chemical that protects existing damaged ones…
Prof Frank LaFerla, of the University of California, said: “Our research provides clear evidence that stem cells can reverse memory loss. “This gives us hope that stem cells someday could help restore brain function in humans suffering from a wide range of diseases and injuries that impair memory function.”
The researchers genetically engineered mice with damaged cells in the hippocampus – a part of the brain which is vital to memory function. They then injected nerve system stem cells from newborn mice into the brains of the damaged mice. Tests showed their memories recovered within three months.
By staining the stem cells the researchers were able to track them in the brains of the mice. A small proportion turned into brain cells while the rest appeared to be supporting injured cells by producing beneficial chemicals called neurotrophins.
Hmmm. I would assume this experiment would never be performed on humans because the stem cells were taken from living infants. Right? Well, maybe. Under New Jersey’s cloning law enacted a few years ago, neural stem cells could be legally taken from a 9-month fetus aborted just prior to birth.
But that would probably not be necessary. Even though being taken from infants, these stem cells were what is commonly known as adult stem cells.
In any event, biotechnology continues to advance–mostly in areas not involved with embryonic stem cells or human cloning.