First brain cells grown in lab

Allen L. Barker alb at datafilter.com
Wed Jan 19 02:05:44 EST 2005


Matthew Kirkcaldie wrote:
> In article <m7mHd.10389$pZ4.1796 at newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net>,
>  "Allen L. Barker" <alb at datafilter.com> wrote:
> 
> 
>>The brain is an amazingly adaptive organ.  It is also fundamentally a
>>self-organizing system, unlike a television.  If the new cells really
>>are integrated into the brain they could easily aid in re-learning
>>certain functions.  They may well be far more plastic than the
>>pre-existing neurons, having been recently grown in a dish.  In any
>>case, assuming that they do make new connections, all of those
>>connections are by definition new ones.
> 
> 
> This type of plasticity routinely occurs after injury to the brain and 
> doesn't require new cells to be introduced.  Rather it exploits the 
> latent organisation of the existing structure, bringing less-used 
> potential organisation structures into play.  Any introduced cells would 
> be unable to participate in this process, lacking the latent 
> connectivity required, and would be unlikely to grow the required 
> processes to integrate with the other neurons in the region because some 
> of the required growth cues are absent.  

I suppose that is the relevant question, or at least a primary one.
Given the lack of details and the sketchy nature of the reports,
we'll have to wait and see.

> A television was a poor choice 
> for the analogy in that it lacks this reorganisational capacity, but 
> it's just wishful thinking to hope that the cells would knit into the 
> existing structure.
> 
> My alarms went off when they claimed to have observed the cells 
> proliferating using brain imaging - how are they supposed to distinguish 
> them from the original brain material?  In an untreated brain injury, 
> glial cells proliferate and tissue moves to fill the void, which is what 
> you would see on any structural scan.  If you have a penetrating injury 
> to the brain, glia move into the rupture, pull the sides together and 
> after a couple of weeks you are left with a glial scar embedded in a 
> mass of continuous tissue.  I'd love to see the technique which could 
> detect cultured cells in the midst of this process, without opening the 
> head. Again, it looks like a lot of wishful thinking to me.

What about the reports of growing human brain cells in the
laboratory in the first place?  Presumably that is something
that can be readily observed...


-- 
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Home page: http://www.datafilter.com/alb
Allen Barker



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