University of California Irvine

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have found that neurons derived from  embryonic stem cells were able to repair some damage in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. In people with MS, the immune system attacks the insulation – called myelin – that covers and protects neurons of the brain and spinal cord. The transplanted cells caused a response in the animals that allowed the myelin coating to be repaired on damaged cells. In humans, repairing the myelin would likely also repair the function of those nerves, bringing back feeling and motor control in people with MS.

Researchers at UC, Irvine identified the true location of adult stem cells in the brain. Previous studies indicated that in mammals, adult neural stem cells originate in a region of the brain called the subventricular zone. In this study, the team found evidence that stem cells exist only in a region called the ependymal layer, which is adjacent to the subventricular zone. They also coaxed the ependymal stem cells to divide in adult rats displaying Parkinson's Disease-like symptoms.

Researchers at UC, Irvine used mouse embryonic stem cells to demonstrate that a specific mutation can cause cardiomyopathy, with a thickened heart wall, in the mouse. The team looked at the small DNA molecule located outside of the nucleus, so-called mitochondrial DNA, which we all inherit exclusively from our mothers. They also discovered that severe mutations in this mitochondrial DNA are readily eliminated from the mouse germ line in just four generations. They expect the method they used to become a robust research tool to study the impact of mutations on stem cells.