According to a study reported in Nature Medicine, a test conducted recently on mice by researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research shows that stem cells can be used to treat degenerative brain diseases.
For the study, the scientists implanted human stem cells (both embryonic and fetal) into the brains of mice inflicted with the equivalent of Sandhoff disease (which is similar to Tay-sachs). The stem cells spread through the brain, taking the place of neural cells killed by the disease.
The researchers noted no problems associated with the stem cell treatment. No tumors formed, the mice did not "reject" the foreign cells, and the treatment seemed to reduce inflammation.
The treated mice lived 70 percent longer than untreated mice. The disease eventually came back, but the researchers believe they could keep it at bay by giving booster injections of the stem cells to take over the functions of the mutated natural brain cells.