New stem cell transplants able to restore memory and cognition

A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has successfully shown that human stem cells can implant themselves into the brain and heal neurological problems. The experiment was conducted using mice, and it showed that implanted stem cells ended up forming two vital types of neurons, which are involved in different kinds of human behavior, such as emotions, learning, memory, addiction, etc.

Su-Chun Zhang, a professor of neuroscience and neurology at UW-Madison, is the lead author of the study, and he has been working in the stem cell field for 15 years now, and is said to be one of the pioneers behind some of the findings. The human embryonic stem cells used in the experiment were cultured in a lab using chemicals that developed them into nerve cells.

The mice first experienced deliberate brain damage that affected the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain dealing with memory and learning. After the transplant, the mice scored significantly better on tests involving learning and memory. The mice were much better in the common maze test, resulting in conclusive results that the transplants worked wonders.

Brain damage repair using cell replacement is huge in the stem cell transplant field, and in the future, Zhang says that it could be used to treat humans that have Alzheimer's, Down syndrome, schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and addiction. However, Zhang also notes that it's hard to tell exactly which part of the brain has gone wrong for many psychiatric disorders, so the new findings are more likely to see application in creating models for drug screening and discovery in the near future.

Image via Flickr