Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Calgary have found that stem cells derived from adult skin can create neural cell types that can be transplanted into and function in mouse models of disease. This research is reported in the June 14, 2006 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
SickKids researchers previously discovered what type of cells can be made from these stem cells (called skin-derived precursors, or SKPs) based on the role played by neural-crest stem cells during embryogenesis. In addition to generating the peripheral nervous system, neural crest stem cells generate other tissues such as bone, cartilage, some types of muscle, and even part of the heart.
In The Journal of Neuroscience paper, the research team found that SKPs can efficiently generate a type of glial cell, called Schwann cells, that can myelinate demyelinated axons (part of a neuron), and that have been shown to provide a good growth environment for injured central nervous system axons. These types of axons normally do not regenerate.
“Schwann cells have been proposed as a cell type for treatment of nerve injuries, demyelination disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and even spinal cord injury,” said Dr. Freda Miller, the study’s principal investigator, a senior scientist in Developmental Biology in the SickKids Research Institute, a professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics, and Physiology at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurobiology. “Our finding that we can efficiently generate and isolate these Schwann cells from SKPs raises the possibility that we could treat humans with Schwann cells derived from human skin stem cells, and perhaps even use the patient’s own skin to generate Schwann cells for treatment.”