Stem cells show promise in treating fatal children’s disease

June 5th, 2008 - 12:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 5 (IANS) Human stem cells tested on mice improved a defective neurological condition - a condition that in children is often fatal, according to a new study. Just a single injection of stem cells after birth helped repair defective wiring throughout the central nervous system of mutant “shiverer mice”, the study found.

The study marks an important step toward the day when stem cells become an option for the treatment of neurological diseases in people.

Neuroscientists of the University of Rochester injected a type of foetal human stem cell known as glial stem cells into newborn mice born with a condition that kills them within about 20 weeks of birth, after suffering constant seizures.

While most of the 26 mice that received transplanted glial stem cells still died, a group of six lived far beyond their usual lifespan, and four appeared to be completely cured - a first for shiverer mice.

The scientists plan to gather more evidence before trying the approach in sick children.

“It’s extremely exciting to think about not only treating but actually curing a disease, particularly an awful disease that affects children,” said neurologist Steven Goldman, a leader in manipulating stem cells to treat diseases of the nervous system.

“Unfortunately, right now, we can do little more for many of these conditions besides tell parents to prepare for their kids to die.”

Thousands of children with rare, fatal disorders known as paediatric leukodystrophies die every year as their brain cells lack sufficient myelin, a vital fatty coating that wraps around cells in the brain like insulation around an electrical wire.

Myelin coats long sections, known as axons, of brain cells called neurons, without which electrical signalling between neurons becomes sluggish and muddied, causing a variety of symptoms.

The findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.

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