MADISON For the first time, scientists have transplanted neural cells derived from a monkey's skin into its brain and watched the cells develop into several types of mature brain cells, according to the authors of a new study in Cell Reports. After six months, the cells looked entirely normal, and were only detectable because they initially were tagged with a fluorescent protein.
Because the cells were derived from adult cells in each monkey's skin, the experiment is a proof-of-principle for the concept of personalized medicine, where treatments are designed for each individual.
And since the skin cells were not "foreign" tissue, there were no signs of immune rejection potentially a major problem with cell transplants. "When you look at the brain, you cannot tell that it is a graft," says senior author Su-Chun Zhang, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Structurally the host brain looks like a normal brain; the graft can only be seen under the fluorescent microscope."
Marina Emborg, an associate professor of medical physics at UW-Madison and the lead co-author of the study, says, "This is the first time I saw, in a nonhuman primate, that the transplanted cells were so well integrated, with such a minimal reaction. And after six months, to see no scar, that was the best part."
The cells were implanted in the monkeys "using a state-of-the-art surgical procedure" guided by an MRI image, says Emborg. The three rhesus monkeys used in the study at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center had a lesion in a brain region that causes the movement disorder Parkinson's disease, which afflicts up to 1 million Americans. Parkinson's is caused by the death of a small number of neurons that make dopamine, a signaling chemical used in the brain.
The transplanted cells came from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), which can, like embryonic stem cells, develop into virtually a
|Contact: Su-Chun Zhang|
University of Wisconsin-Madison