[A version of this abstract appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT) Volume 1 Issue 8 March 2011].
Scientists have discovered how to grow the brain cells which cause memory loss in Alzheimer’s Disease. It has been found possible to manipulate embryonic stem cells causing them to develop into the type of nerve cell that is lost in the early stages of the disease, i.e. so-called basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs). This breakthrough is expected to make it easier for researchers to study these cells and understand their development and destruction. It might help uncover what happens to these cells in Alzheimer’s Disease, and how to prevent or slow-down the process of degeneration.
The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph have reported that “brain cells grown in the laboratory will help to identify new Alzheimer’s drugs”. The Mirror and the Express have claimed optimistically that Alzheimer’s patients might (eventually) have their memory restored. Much more research will be needed, however, before transplants of these cells into humans could be considered as a safe or workable procedure, and this is likely to be a long way off.
‘Major breakthrough’ in Alzheimer’s. London: BBC Radio 4 News, Friday March 4 th 2011.
Neurons ‘lost to Alzheimer’s’ grown in lab. London: NHS Choices, March 7th 2011.
Full Text Link (b) Note: This is the abstract. A subscription is required to access this article.
Bissonnette, CJ. Lyass, L. Bhattacharyya, BJ. [et al] (2011). The Controlled Generation of Functional Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons from Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Stem Cells, March 4th 2011. [Epub ahead of print].