Stem cells from smell-sensing region of human nose could treat brain disorders

A study has suggested that adult stem cells from immune system tissue in the smell-sensing region of the human nose (human olfactory ecto–mesenchymal stem cells [OE-MSCs]) could provide a source of cells to treat brain disorders.

A team of researchers, led by Emmanuel Nivet, now at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, studied the effect in mice.

There are two types of stem cell usually considered in this therapeutic context.

First are the embryonic stem (ES) cells, which are derived from early embryos, and second are induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are derived by reprogramming cells of the body such that they have the ability to generate any cell type.

Ethical and technical issues have so far limited clinical development of therapeutic approaches using ES and iPS cells, respectively, meaning that researchers are seeking alternative stem cell sources.

Nivet and colleagues found that upon transplantation into mice with damage to the hippocampal region of their brain (a region important for learning and memory) OE-MSCs moved toward the site of damage, where they developed into nerve cells and also stimulated endogenous nerve cell generation.

Importantly, the treated mice showed improvement in learning and memory.

These findings suggest OE-MSCs might be of tremendous utility in the clinic.

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