27 April 1999

Adult Brain Stem Cells Multiply In Vitro

Brain stem cells recovered from living adult human tissue have been successfully reproduced in vitro at the University of Tennessee-Memphis health science center. Additional research from the same laboratory also shows successful isolation and cultivation of mouse brain stem cells recovered as long as seven days after death.

These findings will be published in this month's Experimental Neurology. The research could provide a possible alternative to the research use of embryonic stem cells, which is used in stem cell biology and its possible therapeutic use that raises complex and controversial ethical issues.

The work is from the laboratory of Dr. Dennis A. Steindler, UT-Memphis professor of neurobiology. Describing the work Steindler said, "This new era of applying knowledge gained from genetics, molecular, cellular and developmental biology is much more than just the discussion of the ethical issues surrounding embryonic and fetal cell research, and the controversy over cloning animals and human beings.

"This new research showing that stem/progenitor cells from adult brains can be expanded in culture (ex vivo) offers hope for future studies which could someday lead to autologous stem cell transplants for self-repair regenerative approaches," said Steindler. "It now is possible to think about using our own population of stem cells because it appears they survive well into mature adulthood."

The research team's research recovered cells from the hippocampus and the subependymal zone (SEZ). The SEZ is a remnant leftover from the fetal/baby brain region remaining in the adult brain that surrounds the fluid-filled spaces called ventricles.

Dr. Valery G. Kukekov a member of the team, said, "These results are encouraging because it means that even senior persons have these cells. This gives us the opportunity in the future, as the research expands, to take a small biopsy specimen from a diseased person, grow the necessary cells and then transplant them back to the same person."

Kukekov said the research team is now working on describing the molecular biologic characteristics of the cultured cells. "We cannot move forward and be successful in experiments with propagation without knowing how genes are expressed in the process and what molecular events are occurring."

Other work with cadaveric mice successfully isolated and recovered stem cells up to five to seven days postmortem when the mice were kept at 4 degrees C. (refrigerated). The cells were retrieved from the adult mouse spinal cord and forebrain SEZ. Using the culturing technique developed by Kukekov, the cells mouse grew and multiplied and gave rise to both neurons and glia.

The paper includes a single human cadaver unpublished observation which produced results similar to those found with the mice.