In a serendipitous discovery, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a way to turn bone marrow stem cells directly into brain cells.
Current techniques for turning patients’ marrow cells into cells of some other desired type are relatively cumbersome, risky and effectively confined to the lab dish. The new finding points to the possibility of simpler and safer techniques. Cell therapies derived from patients’ own cells are widely expected to be useful in treating spinal cord injuries, strokes and other conditions throughout the body, with little or no risk of immune rejection.
“These results highlight the potential of antibodies as versatile manipulators of cellular functions,” said Richard A. Lerner, the Lita Annenberg Hazen Professor of Immunochemistry and institute professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at TSRI, and principal investigator for the new study. “This is a far cry from the way antibodies used to be thought of—as molecules that were selected simply for binding and not function.”
The researchers discovered the method, reported in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of April 22, 2013, while looking for lab-grown antibodies that can activate a growth-stimulating receptor on marrow cells. One antibody turned out to activate the receptor in a way that induces marrow stem cells—which normally develop into white blood cells—to become neural progenitor cells, a type of almost-mature brain cell.
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This image depicts neural stem cells that were genetically modified with an engineered form of HIV. Visualized in green is a transgenic protein introduced by HIV; red is a stem cell stain, and blue depicts neuronal progeny.
Cross-Section Tissue of Marram Grass Leaf
Image shows adult human fibroblast cells with intracellular proteins involved in adhesion of these cells to an extracellular matrix. Magenta represents actin stress fibers in a cell and green staining represents a focal adhesion protein vinculin, which together contribute to how strongly these cells adhere to a matrix surface. Blue is the nucleus of a cell.
Human ovarian cancer cells stained for DNA (red) and microtubules (green).
Chicken embryo vascular system
Confocal micrograph showing the expression of different fluorescent proteins in the stem of a thale cress seedling (Arabidopsis thaliana).
Widefield image of a pilidium larvae of the Nemertean ribbon worm, Cerebratulus lacteus,
Acetabularia - gigantic single cell algae.
Confocal image of squid, Loligo pealei, embryo stained for for F-actin (green; phalloidin), Acetylated tubulin (red), anti-HRP (yellow), and DAPI (blue; nuclei)