Monday, March 4, 2013

Flexible needle delivers stem cells where they are needed in the brain

So, let’s say one of our grantees generates a type of stem cell in the lab that could replace or repair cells that go awry in diseases of the brain. Good news, right? But how do you suppose scientists are going to get those cells where they are needed? Simply squirting a syringe-full of cells into the brain isn’t going to get them where they can repair disease.

This kind of technological hurdle is what we were thinking about when we funded our Tools & Technologies Awards. And now, one of those grant recipients has developed a tool that could solve the problem of how to deliver stem cells to a precise brain location.

Daniel Lim, a neurosurgeon and stem cell scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, used his Tools & Technologies award to develop a flexible needle that can bend and twist its way into position in the brain.

Our grantee Xianmin Zeng at the Buck Institute is planning to use Lim’s device in therapies they are developing for Parkinson’s disease and Pelizaeus–Merzbacher disease.

In a story in Nature, Lim worries that technologies like his are lagging behind the pace of advances in stem cell science:
“If we don't do the work now before we think we need it, then it will never be ready.”
A.A.

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