CIRM-funded researchers restore “balance” to brains disrupted by epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons

Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, Ph.D.

An unexpected finding by a CIRM-funded team at UC San Francisco raises new hope that neurons grown from stem cells could be transplanted into patients’ brains and survive in sufficient numbers to help the patients.

The team worked with a specific type of mouse neuron that helps control the cell-to-cell chatter that goes on constantly in our brains. These cells, called GABA-secreting interneurons, balance the actions of other neurons in the brain. Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia have all been linked to disruptions in this balance. Prior research has shown that implanting new interneurons in some animal models of these diseases can improve symptoms.

Despite evidence that these transplanted interneurons can improve symptoms, researchers had assumed that approach would not be an effective form of therapy. Most in the field had thought that the brain only had room for so many interneurons and transplanted healthy neurons would have to compete with the defective native neurons for space.

What the team found was quite different than expected. No matter how many new interneurons they implanted, the same proportion always survived, suggesting it will be easier than folks thought to get enough nerves to survive to impact patients’ disease. The team, led by Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, published their findings last week in Nature:

A press release from UCSF quotes Alvarez-Buylla:

“[This constant rate of survival] suggests that these cells, which other collaborative studies have shown have great therapeutic promise, can be added to cortex in significant numbers.”

CIRM funding: Derek G. Southwell and Mercedes F. Paredes (TG2-01153); Arturo Alvarez-Buylla (TR2-01749)


ResearchBlogging.orgSouthwell DG, Paredes MF, Galvao RP, Jones DL, Froemke RC, Sebe JY, Alfaro-Cervello C, Tang Y, Garcia-Verdugo JM, Rubenstein JL, Baraban SC, & Alvarez-Buylla A (2012). Intrinsically determined cell death of developing cortical interneurons. Nature PMID: 23041929

One thought on “CIRM-funded researchers restore “balance” to brains disrupted by epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons

  1. Research firm reaped stem cell funds despite panel's advice
    StemCells Inc. has had rather a charmed relationship with California's publicly funded stem cell program, with some $40 million in awards approved this year.
    That brings us back to StemCells Inc. First, consider the firm's pedigree. Its co-founder was Irving Weissman, director of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and a stem cell research pioneer. Weissman was one of the most prominent and outspoken supporters of Proposition 71, the 2004 ballot initiative that established the stem cell agency.

    He's also been a leading beneficiary of CIRM funding, listed as the principal researcher on three grants worth a total of $24.5 million. The agency also contributed $43.6 million toward the construction of his institute's glittering $200-million research building on the Stanford campus. As of mid-April Weissman was still listed as a shareholder of StemCells, where his wife, Ann Tsukamoto, is an executive. Weissman, who is traveling in Africa, could not get back to me by deadline to talk about his relationship with the company.

    Then consider the unusual path to the company's $40 million in funding. The funds technically are interest-bearing loans, but they're more like grants — they can be forgiven if the research they support fails to get commercialized; even if the project is successful, CIRM isn't guaranteed full recovery.,0,770127.column?

    pigs at the trough and patients left with crap,,,everybody is a humanitarian as long as they get paid.

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