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Way to Grow Young Nerve Cells Found

Researchers say they can turn back the developmental clock

THURSDAY, Jan. 1, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Scientists have identified a gene in the cerebral cortex that apparently controls the developmental clock of embryonic nerve cells, a finding that could open new possiblities for tissue replacement therapy in the central nervous system.

A team led by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine found that by manipulating the gene, they could trick the brains of embryonic mice into producing cortical cells that belonged to an earlier part of development.

The finding could help produce new methods of replacing young brain cells and generating a far wider array of tissue than is now available.

"There is this central tenet governing the process of brain development which says that late progenitor cells -- the forerunners of mature cell types -- cannot give rise to cell types produced earlier in development," Dr. Gordon Fishell, an associate professor of cell biology, says in a prepared statement.

"Consequently, while some populations of stem cells exist in the adult brain, these cells are restricted to producing only a subset of cell types," Fishell says. "If one's goal is to produce cells for replacement therapy, some method must be found to turn back the clock and allow adult stem cells to give rise to the wide variety of cells made during normal brain development."

The study appears in the Jan. 2 issue of Science.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about brain development.

SOURCES: New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 1, 2004
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