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Stem Cell Research.
New Type of Adult Stem Cell Shows Exciting Similarity to Embryonic Stem Cell Flexibility.

December 13, 2004.

A type of stem cell found in adults is proving to be similar to embryonic stem cells in flexibility. The stem cell, called a neural crest stem cell, is one that develops before birth and persists into adulthood in hair follicles.

Maya Sieber-Blum, Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milos Grim, MD Ph.D., of Charles University Prague, and their team of researchers discovered the new type of adult stem cell and say they hope it can be used in therapeutic applications. Like all stem cells derived from a patient's own body, neural crest stem cells do not prompt immune system rejection and they have been shown to have an unusually ready ability to change into many types of tissue.

Early studies have shown that they are able to differentiate into neurons, nerve supporting cells, cartilage/bone cells, smooth muscle cells, and pigment cells. Sieber-Blum said, "The goal of our research is to apply neural crest stem cells from adult hair follicles in cell replacement therapy in selected instances," which include heart disease and spinal cord injuries as well as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

In related news, Dr. Michael J. Young, from Harvard Medical School in Boston has led a team of researchers who have cured mice of retinal disease using their own stem cells. The scientists harvested retinal stem cells from newborn mice and transplanted them into the damaged retinas of adult mice. The stem cells transformed into the nerve cells and repaired the damage. The treated mice have shown improved response to light.

"many of the (eye) cells that were on the verge of dying before the transplant appeared to regain or retain their function," Dr. Young wrote in a media release. "These are the first steps toward the use of stem cells for saving existing vision and then - down the road - restoring vision that has already been lost," he said.



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