Stem cells could help in the battle against major brain diseases – scientists reveal latest research


The study of stem cells continues to be a top priority for researchers; given their distinct regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potential for treating a range of diseases. During the Cambridge Science Festival, researchers reveal how these cells could help with the battle against major diseases of the brain.

On Monday 17 March, the newly appointed Professor of Stem Cell Medicine, Robin Franklin, will be discussing his research into central nervous system regeneration, in particular myelin repair, during his talk Stem cells and repairing brains. The potential benefits of myelin repair are to stop nerve cell degeneration and provide a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Professor Franklin said: “The brain, although capable of unmatched feats of adaptability, is generally considered to be an organ that is very poor at mending itself after injury. However, one particular type of brain cell, called the oligodendrocyte – the cell that makes the myelin wrapping around nerve fibres – can be regenerated when lost in disease by the brain’s own stem cells. By studying in the laboratory how brain stem cells generate new oligodendrocytes it has been possible to identify ways in which this important regenerative process might be achieved in the clinic, offering the prospects of regenerative medicine for major neurological diseases.”

On Wednesday 19 March, Professor Roger Barker from the Centre for Brain Repair, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Cambridge, will be asking, What can stem cells do for Parkinson’s Disease? Professor Roger Barker’s lab studies chronic neurodegenerative disorders of the nervous system, in particular Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Professor Barker will show how these diseases develop and reveal how, by testing new therapies with specific patient subgroups, the ultimate aim is to find therapies to stop or modify disease processes.

Professor Barker said: “There has been a great deal of excitement about stem cells and how they can be used to study diseases of the brain as well as treat them through implantation. In this talk, I will discuss what we can hope to find out about disease processes by looking at the brain nerve cells we can now make from the skin cells of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). In addition, I will chart the history of cell transplantation for PD and how the field has moved from periods of huge hope to disappointment before entering this new era of optimism around stem cell therapies. However, is that optimism misplaced or are we really on the threshold of a whole new era of therapies for these incurable diseases of the ageing brain?”

Further talks relating to stem cell research during the Science Festival, include:

  • Stem cell discoveries, 15, 16 and 23 March. Hands-on activities all about the amazing world of stem cells. Look after your own flask of stem cells in our stem cell pet experiment; race to the finish line in our stem cell board game; view some short stem cell films and talk to researchers working in the field about the latest advances. Adults can also win a tour of the Stem Cell Institute, led by one of our top researchers.
  • Stem cells: using physics and engineering principles in stem cell research, 18 March. Dr Kevin Chalut’s lab focuses on new ways to investigate physical states of a cell during its development using microscopy and microfluidic techniques. The goal is to discover the physical mechanisms, and the importance of those mechanisms, in various areas of stem cell research.
  • Stem cells: reprogramming adult cells back into embryonic stem cells, 20 March. Dr Jose Silva studies the biology of how to convert a somatic cell back into a pluripotent cell. Somatic cells make up our internal organs, skin, bones, blood and connective tissue. A pluripotent cell refers to a stem cell that has the potential to differentiate into any of the three germ layers. Learn more about this fascinating process.

For more information about the Cambridge Science Festival or to book tickets for any of these events, please visit:

For more information on the Wellcome Trust – Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, please visit:

Further news stories about the Cambridge Science Festival can be viewed here:


Source: University of Cambridge


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