From today's issue of Science: The possibility of using stem cells from the brain to grow neural tissues has advanced a key step now that British scientists have coaxed certain nerve cells backwards in their development process to the stem cell stage. Neural stem cells can develop into any kind of nerve cell, but are less abundant and more difficult to isolate than the more differentiated cells that were the subjects of the study. These cells, called oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), supply the brain with the cells that form insulating sheaths around neurons. Toru Kondo and Martin Raff soaked the OPCs in substances containing several growth factors, signaling molecules that could direct the cells from the outside to revert into self-renewing stem cells. The authors then used other growth factors to induce the flexible cells to become two other key types of nerve cells, neurons and astrocytes. (From Science press release.)
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