27 September 2023

Stem cell transplant restored brain in mice with Alzheimer's

Researchers are developing stem cell therapy against Alzheimer's disease. First experiments on mice confirm the treatment's effectiveness.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have tested a new potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease in mice. Transplanting blood stem cells from healthy animals to patients helps replace defective nerve cells.

Researchers experimented with mice that had defective genes for TREM2, the most common genetic alteration associated with a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The researchers transplanted stem and progenitor cells isolated from the blood of healthy animals into these animals.

Analysis showed that the transplanted cells restored the circulatory system in the recipient's brain and even formed new cells that looked and functioned like microglia, the nervous system's macrophages, whose dysfunction has been linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The new cells replaced many of the recipient's original microglia and, as preliminary analysis has shown, restored their function. In addition, the transplant also affected other signs of Alzheimer's disease, including a reduction in the formation of amyloid plaques. "We showed that most of the original brain microglia were replaced by healthy cells, leading to a restoration of normal TREM2 activity," says Marius Wernig, co-author of the study.

The researchers note that while the initial results are promising, they are preliminary and require further research. For one thing, the replacement cells resemble microglia, but are still different from them. How these changes will affect brain function needs to be studied in a long-term study. 

And secondly, the current treatment is invasive - the replacement cells must first be destroyed using radiation or chemotherapy. To fully utilize the method in humans, a less toxic method of removing cells with impaired function is needed.
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