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A major neurological breakthrough.

Debilitating brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease are steadily on the increase as our population ages. However, research in this area has always been hampered by the fact that human brain cells could not be made to grow in the laboratory and thus provide a living model of the brain to test drugs and to research disease processes. A report from Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University in the May 4 issue of Science magazine offers the exciting possibility that scientists may now be able to do just that.

More than three years ago, Hopkins researchers tried using brain cells from an infant who had died of a rare brain disorder. This particular baby's brain had kept growing once the skull had reached full size, so the researchers decided to nurture the excess brain cells in laboratory dishes. Although most of the cells died, some survived and continued to divide, as living cells do. These cells did not, however, have the appearance of mature brain cells, so substances thought to be essential to neurological growth were added to the culture medium. The immature cells then developed to the point where they began to look like normal brain cells.

The process, if successful, would then make it possible for scientists to reproduce various neurological disorders in the laboratory and thus test new methods of treatment. The ultimate accomplishment would be to transplant laboratory-produced brain cells into diseased brains to reverse the degenerative process.
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Title Annotation:first human brain cells grown in laboratory
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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