Scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) have moved a step closer to creating tranplant-ready, laboratory-grown supplies of specialized nerve cells for treating patients with neurologic disorders such as Parkinson disease (Nat Neurosci. 1998;1:290-295).
In their study, the investigators obtained neural stem cells—the embryonic precursors for all types of brain and nervous system cells—from the brains of rat embryos and grew them in culture along with a protein called basic fibroblast growth factor to stimulate the cells to multiply. After growth factor was withdrawn several days later, the cells aggregated into free-floating spherical clusters, formed connections, and differentiated into neurons that secreted neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
Stephenson J. Growing Neural Spare Parts. JAMA. 1998;280(7):594. doi:10.1001/jama.280.7.594-JHA80006-4-1