Research Supported by The Helmsley Charitable Trust Grant Provides New Insight Into Neurological Disorders
Many neurological disorders—Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, even depression—have lagged behind in new therapies. Because the brain is so complex, it can be difficult to discover new drugs and even when a drug is promising in animal models, it often doesn’t work for humans.
Scientists are aiming to change that with stem cell technology by taking skin cells from a patient and turning those cells into neurons. Researchers can then test new drugs and study the development of disease in these lab-grown neurons, and even test the potential to use these “personalized neurons” for tissue replacement via transplantation to cure a damaged part of the brain. However, while biologists have already had success in growing tiny, stem-cell-based brain-like “organoids” in dishes or test tubes for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, these model systems are still a long way from representing the complexity of the brain.
Scientists from the Salk Institute report a new approach that can develop more sophisticated organoid models by ensuring they receive sufficient oxygen and other nutrients via transplantation into rodents. The work, published in Nature Biotechnology on April 16, 2018, could yield insights into the development of cures for brain disorders; speed up the testing of drugs; and even pave the way for someday transplanting healthy populations of human cells into people’s brains to replace damaged or dysfunctional tissue...