In this study researchers from Canada attempted to transplant neuronal stem cells that have been modified to produce large amounts of VEGF. Armed with their new VEGF weaponry the cells were transplanted into SOD1 MND mice.

Stem cells are a normal part of all tissues in the body. They are characterised by their ability to renew themselves and to convert into a range of specialized cell types able to perform specific functions. There are many types of stem cells in the adult body. Each of these are limited to the types of cells that they can create.

Embryonic stem cells are shaping up to be a promising tool for treating a range of diseases from heart disease to MND. With this in mind a research group headed by Dr Ivan Velasko implanted embryonic stem cells that had been converted into motor neurones into rat spinal chords.

A protein involved in spinal muscular atrophy, called ‘survival motor neurone’ (SMN), has previously been shown to be low in sporadic MND patients. A research team led by Dr Bradley Turner from the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne has studied the role of the loss of the SMN protein in mice with mutant SOD1 associated MND. They found that the loss of SMN resulted in the shortening of MND mice lifespan.

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