Saturday, May 4, 2013

Newsflash: Human Brain Cells Grown in Lab Mice.

"They're Pinky and the Brain 
Yes, Pinky and the Brain
One is a genius, 
the other's insane.
They're laboratory mice,
Their genes have been spliced,
They're Pinky, they're Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain..." 

For those of you not aware of the above ditty, it comes from a segment on an old (but very good) cartoon called Animaniacs. Listen to it here. The "Pinky and the Brain" shorts involved two lab mice who had been enhanced into super-intelligent, talking rodents, one of whom was hell-bent on taking over the world using various wacky means.  Now that we're putting human brain cells in rodents, there is a very good chance that mice, becoming ever more like humans, may well start taking over the world.

"May 3, 2013 — A key type of human brain cell developed in the laboratory grows seamlessly when transplanted into the brains of mice, UC San Francisco researchers have discovered, raising hope that these cells might one day be used to treat people with Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and possibly even Alzheimer's disease, as well as and complications of spinal cord injury such as chronic pain and spasticity. 

"We think this one type of cell may be useful in treating several types of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders in a targeted way," said Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF and co-lead author on the paper.

The researchers generated and transplanted a type of human nerve-cell progenitor called the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cell, in experiments described in the May 2 edition of Cell Stem Cell. Development of these human MGE cells within the mouse brain mimics what occurs in human development, they said.


To generate MGE cells in the lab, the researchers reliably directed the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells -- either human embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells derived from human skin. These two kinds of stem cells have virtually unlimited potential to become any human cell type. When transplanted into a strain of mice that does not reject human tissue, the human MGE-like cells survived within the rodent forebrain, integrated into the brain by forming connections with rodent nerve cells, and matured into specialized subtypes of interneurons.


"The hope is that we can deliver these cells to various places within the nervous system that have been overactive and that they will functionally integrate and provide regulated inhibition," Nicholas said.

One mystery and challenge to both the clinical and pre-clinical study of human MGE cells is that they develop at a slower, human pace, reflecting an "intrinsic clock." In fast-developing mice, the human MGE-like cells still took seven to nine months to form interneuron subtypes that normally are present near birth.

"If we could accelerate the clock in human cells, then that would be very encouraging for various applications," Kriegstein said." - Source with more.

Of course, the scientists are doing this to cure neurological disorders, That includes everything from autism to back issues. The result might still be mice with the intellects of human children, if the internal clock is to be believed.

That said, Pinky's more realistic.

Mind, this isn't quite gene splicing. It's a tissue implant of human cells into a rodent body. We really don't know what will happen with this; the neurotransplant technique is only a couple of years old. Give it time; they'll try to take over the world eventually. If the enhanced mice start talking and one of them starts saying "narf," we'll know for sure that these scientists have seen Animaniacs.

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