Transplanted brain stem cells survive without anti-rejection drugs

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ngd- This is an important step in developing practical brain recovery treatments…

Summary: Researchers have developed a new method to transplant neural stem cells into mice without the need for lifelong anti-rejection medications.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

In experiments in mice, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have developed a way to successfully transplant certain protective brain cells without the need for lifelong anti-rejection drugs.

A report on the research, published Sept. 16 in the journal Brain, details the new approach, which selectively circumvents the immune response against foreign cells, allowing transplanted cells to survive, thrive and protect brain tissue long after stopping immune-suppressing drugs.

The ability to successfully transplant healthy cells into the brain without the need for conventional anti-rejection drugs could advance the search for therapies that help children born with a rare but devastating class of genetic diseases in which myelin, the protective coating around neurons that helps them send messages, does not form normally. Approximately 1 of every 100,000 children born in the U.S. will have one of these diseases, such as Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease. This disorder is characterized by infants missing developmental milestones such as sitting and walking, having involuntary muscle spasms, and potentially experiencing partial paralysis of the arms and legs, all caused by a genetic mutation in the genes that form myelin.

“Because these conditions are initiated by a mutation causing dysfunction in one type of cell, they present a good target for cell therapies, which involve transplanting healthy cells or cells engineered to not have a condition to take over for the diseased, damaged or missing cells,” says Piotr Walczak, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of radiology and radiological science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

A major obstacle to our ability to replace these defective cells is the mammalian immune system. The immune system works by rapidly identifying ‘self’ or ‘nonself’ tissues, and mounting attacks to destroy nonself or “foreign” invaders. While beneficial when targeting bacteria or viruses, it is a major hurdle for transplanted organs, tissue or cells, which are also flagged for destruction. Traditional anti-rejection drugs that broadly and unspecifically tamp down the immune system altogether frequently work to fend off tissue rejection, but leave patients vulnerable to infection and other side effects. Patients need to remain on these drugs indefinitely.

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