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Fat Cells Can Be Turned Into Nerve Cells

Research suggests limitless resource could be used to treat nerve damage

TUESDAY, June 1, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Mouse fat cells can be turned into functional nerve cells, says a Duke University Medical Center study in the June 1 issue of Experimental Neurology.

This finding suggests it may be possible to use fat cells, which offer a practically limitless resource, to create nerve cells to treat injury and disease damage in human central and peripheral nervous systems.

The Duke researchers used a combination of growth factors and induction agents to transform the mouse fat cells into two types of nerve cells -- neurons and glial cells. Neurons transport electrical signals from cell to cell. Glial cells surround neurons like a sheath.

"We have demonstrated that within fat tissue there is a population of stromal cells that can differentiate into different types of cells with many of the characteristics of neuronal and glial cells," study first author Kristine Safford said in a prepared statement.

"These findings support more research into developing adipose (fat) tissue as a viable source for cellular-based therapies," Safford said.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about nerve injuries.

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, June 1, 2004
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