Scientists believe harnessing stem cells could be the Holy Grail in finding cures for hundreds of diseases.
In San Diego, scientists from four of the nation’s top research institutions have joined together to create the San Diego Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Stem cells have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the body.
These cells can turn into heart cells, kidney cells and nerve cells.
“Now what we are seeing here is what we call a colony of human embryonic stem cell,” said neurobiologist Dr. Evan Snyder.
At the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, scientists are harvesting stem cells and coaxing them into becoming certain types of cells.
Snyder’s research focuses on growing nerve cells. He discovered human embryonic stem cells could be used to encourage Regeneration of the brain and spinal cord.
“It can start allowing the connections that would normally degenerate to not degenerate,” said Snyder.
Scientists believe growing nerve cells may be able to repair brain cells damaged by Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, or replace injured spinal cord cells in someone with paralysis.
Snyder already has some proof in the form of lab rats.
Snyder took a rat that could not move his hind legs because of a spinal cord injury.
Following treatment with stem cells, the rat regained some movement.
“We have seen this same type of phenomena happen in stroke and other kinds of degenerative injuries,” said Snyder.
Snyder’s research shows stem cells can be injected into people with degenerative diseases and injuries to help the body repair itself.
“When all is said and done nature still knows best how to develop the brain and the spinal cord,” said Snyder.
This research may be able to one day help people recover lost functions from stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gerhig’s disease and some genetic diseases.