Washington Researchers have discovered that transplanted bone marrow cells can migrate to the brain and turn into neurons, a dramatic laboratory finding that may offer hope of new therapies for Parkinson's disease and other brain disorders.
Two separate teams of scientists, using different methods and different strains of mice, have demonstrated that transplanted bone marrow cells can transform themselves naturally into neurons brain cells that carry nerve impulses and install themselves seamlessly into the brain.
The researchers said the finding suggests that converting bone marrow cells into brain neurons may be part of a previously unknown natural healing action the body uses to replace failed brain cells.
"It may be a repair mechanism that is going all the time at a low level," said Helen Blau, a professor at Stanford University and senior author of one of two studies appearing today in the journal Science.
Blau said the repair mechanism may not be powerful enough to correct "a really severe insult, like an injury or Parkinson's disease," but medical science may find a way to enlist this potential to replace neurons destroyed by disease or injury.