Tuesday, February 01, 2005

US researchers create motor neurons with human stem cells

Researchers have successfully coaxed human embryonic stem cells into becoming spinal motor neurons in an experiment that might help scientists repair damaged nervous systems.

Spinal motor neurons relay messages sent from the brain to the rest of the body, making them critical components of the nervous system.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hope this technology will one day lead to treatments and cures for spinal-cord injuries and diseases like Lou Gehrig's disease.

Transforming embryonic stem cells into motor neurons had eluded researchers for decades, until now.

Lead researcher Su-Chun Zhang said their trial-and-error study helped them learn how motor neuron cells, which are key to the nervous system, develop in the first place.

He said the next step will be to transplant the newly generated neurons into a living animal.

Zhang also cautioned that it will be many years before they can be tested in humans.