Brain cells grown after death

May 3, 2001 | Source: KurzweilAI

Salk Institute scientists have isolated cells from the brains of human cadavers that can grow, divide and form specialized classes of brain cells.

The recovered cells had the ability to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes (nourish and protect neurons), and oligodendrocytes, which insulate neurons with a myelin sheath.

“I find it remarkable that we all have pockets of cells in our brains that can grow and differentiate throughout our lives and even after death,” said Fred Gage, a professor at The Salk Institute and senior author of the study, which appears in the current Nature.

“Cells recovered from healthy individuals could provide a model for understanding how to stimulate and guide the normal processes of brain cell growth and differentiation,” he said, especially for people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Adult stem cells would replace fetal tissue, currently an issue of ethical debate, as a source.