Human neural stem cells study offers new hope for children with fatal brain diseases
New findings demonstrate potential to treat a wide variety of disorders that affect myelin
Physician-scientists at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital have demonstrated for the first time that banked human neural stem cells — HuCNS-SCs, a proprietary product of StemCells Inc. — can survive and make functional myelin in mice with severe symptoms of myelin loss. Myelin is the critical fatty insulation, or sheath, surrounding new nerve fibers and is essential for normal brain function.
This is a very important finding in terms of advancing stem cell therapy to patients, the investigators report, because in most cases, patients are not diagnosed with a myelin disease until they begin to show symptoms. The research is published online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Myelin disorders are a common, extremely disabling, often fatal type of brain disease found in children and adults. They include cerebral palsy in children born prematurely as well as multiple sclerosis, among others.
Using advanced MRI technology, researchers at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital also recently recognized the importance of healthy brain white matter at all stages of life and showed that a major part of memory decline in aging occurs due to widespread changes in the white matter, which results in damaged myelin and progressive senility (Annals of Neurology, September 2011).