Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
>
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Stem Cells Hint at Potential Treatment for Huntington's Disease

Published: Friday, March 16, 2012
Last Updated: Friday, March 16, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Special type of brain cell forged from stem cells restore muscle coordination deficits.

Huntington's disease, the debilitating congenital neurological disorder that progressively robs patients of muscle coordination and cognitive ability, is a condition without effective treatment, a slow death sentence.

But if researchers can build on new research reported this week (March 15, 2012) in the journal Cell Stem Cell, a special type of brain cell forged from stem cells could help restore the muscle coordination deficits that cause the uncontrollable spasms characteristic of the disease.

"This is really something unexpected," says Su-Chun Zhang, a University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientist and the senior author of the new study, which showed that locomotion could be restored in mice with a Huntington's-like condition.

Zhang is an expert at making different types of brain cells from human embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells.

In the new study, his group focused on what are known as GABA neurons, cells whose degradation is responsible for disruption of a key neural circuit and loss of motor function in Huntington's patients.

GABA neurons, Zhang explains, produce a key neurotransmitter, a chemical that helps underpin the communication network in the brain that coordinates movement.

In the laboratory, Zhang and his colleagues at the UW-Madison Waisman Center have learned how to make large amounts of GABA neurons from human embryonic stem cells, which they sought to test in a mouse model of Huntington's disease.

The goal of the study, Zhang notes, was simply to see if the cells would safely integrate into the mouse brain.

To their astonishment, the cells not only integrated but also project to the right target and effectively reestablished the broken communication network, restoring motor function.

The results of the study were surprising, Zhang explains, because GABA neurons reside in one part of the brain, the basal ganglia, which plays a key role in voluntary motor coordination.

But the GABA neurons exert their influence at a distance on cells in the midbrain through the circuit fueled by the GABA neuron chemical neurotransmitter.

"This circuitry is essential for motor coordination," Zhang says, "and it is what is broken in Huntington patients. The GABA neurons exert their influence at a distance through this circuit. Their cell targets are far away."

That the transplanted cells could effectively reestablish the circuit was completely unexpected: "Many in the field feel that successful cell transplants would be impossible because it would require rebuilding the circuitry. But what we've shown is that the GABA neurons can remake the circuitry and produce the right neurotransmitter."

The implications of the new study are important not only because they suggest it may one day be possible to use cell therapy to treat Huntington's, but also because it suggests the adult brain may be more malleable than previously believed.

The adult brain, notes Zhang, is considered by neuroscientists to be stable, and not easily susceptible to therapies that seek to correct things like the broken circuits at the root of conditions like Huntington's.

For a therapy to work, it has to be engineered so that only cells of interest are affected. "The brain is wired in such a precise way that if a neuron projects the wrong way, it could be chaotic."

Zhang stresses that while the new research is promising, working up from the mouse model to human patients will take much time and effort.

But for a disease that now has no effective treatment, the work could become the next best hope for those with Huntington's.

The new study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,100+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
A Boost for Regenerative Medicine
Growing tissues and organs in the lab for transplantation into patients could become easier after scientists discovered an effective way to produce three-dimensional networks of blood vessels, vital for tissue survival yet a current stumbling block in regenerative medicine.
Heart Defect Prediction Technology Could Lead to Earlier, More Informed Treatment
Experimental method uses genetics-guided biomechanics, patient-specific stem cells.
Immune Cells Remember Their First Meal
Scientists at the University of Bristol have identified the trigger for immune cells' inflammatory response – a discovery that may pave the way for new treatments for many human diseases.
Cancer Cells Coordinate to Form Roving Clusters
Rice University scientists identify ‘smoking gun’ in metastasis of hybrid cells.
Bio-Mimicry Method For Preparing & Labeling Stem Cells Developed
Method allows researchers to prepare mesenchymal stem cells and monitor them using MRI.
Transcription Factor Isoforms Implicated in Colon Diseases
UC Riverside study explains how distribution of two forms of a transcription factor in the colon influence risk of disease.
New Bio-Glass Could Make it Possible to Re-Grow or Replace Cartilage
Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a material that can mimic cartilage and potentially encourage it to re-grow.
Stem Cell Advance Could Be Key Step Toward Treating Deadly Blood Diseases
UCLA scientists get closer to creating blood stem cells in the lab.
Harnessing Engineered Slippery Surfaces For Tissue Repair
A new method could facilitate the transfer of intact regenerating cell sheets from the culture dish to damaged tissues in patients.
Brazilian Zika Virus Strain Causes Birth Defects in Experimental Models
First direct experimental proof of causal effect, researchers say.
SELECTBIO

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,100+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!