Research published in the journal Science has cast doubt on the versatility of adult stem cells. In experiments to see whether stem cells may be used in potential therapies for neurological and brain diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, the scientists report that stem cells taken from the bone marrow of adult mice did not easily change into nerve cells.
H David Shine and colleagues from the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor Medical Center in Houston, US, said that the use of adult stem cells may only work under certain conditions, depending 'on the experimental system in which the hypothesis is tested'.
The team used radiation to destroy the bone marrow of adult mice which were later given brain injuries. Genetically marked bone marrow cells from other adult mice had been injected to test whether the injury would cause the stem cells to differentiate into nerve cells, but this did not happen.
The research team is 'still betting' that it is possible to make adult stem cells differentiate into neural cells, as other experiments have been successful in the past. It is possible that the problem in this experiment was that the genetic marker used by the team is not as effective in brain tissue as other markers might be.