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See Inside December 2006/January 2007

Safer Neuron Source

As your body develops, neural stem cells transform into the specialized neurons, glia and other cells that make up your brain. Researchers have long hoped to harness these stem cells to grow replacements for neurons damaged in degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. But there is also some risk that neural stem cells will form tumors when implanted in a patient's brain. Now there may be an alternative.

Dennis Steindler of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida and other scientists were able to extract a population of neural progenitor cells from glia of adult human brains. Proteins in the progenitor cell membranes clearly distinguished them from stem cells. Nevertheless, the progenitors possessed stem cell–like abilities, although—unlike stem cells—they exhibited no tendency to form tumors.

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