research explained

Treating Huntington’s disease: making new neurons is not enough


Many researchers and clinicians believe that stem cells will one day be used in regenerative medicines to treat many injuries and diseases, including Huntington’s disease (HD). Researchers think that nerve cells that die in HD patients may be able to be replaced with new healthy neurons made from stem cells. Scientists are already able to use stem cells to create nerve cells similar to those lost by HD patients.

Reconstructing the brain: approaches to treating Parkinson’s disease

Dr Malin Parmar and colleagues concisely describe in an ACNR review efforts over the past 30 years to develop a treatment for Parkinson’s disease patients that replaces destroyed nerve cells in the brain. Many different approaches are being taken, from brain cell transplants to using pluripotent stem cells. Now, a technology called ‘direct neural conversion’ can be added to the arsenal of tools researchers are using.

Learning to build a heart from the cells up

Perhaps it’s no surprise that cells are very diverse in their shapes and functions. Even stem cells have diverse needs and environmental conditions depending on what types of cells they make in the body. This diversity can make studying some stem cells particularly difficult, such as cardiovascular/heart stem cells

Autism research using mini-organs grown from patient derived stem cells


Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder whose causes are not fully understood. Recent work by scientists at Yale University has shown that organoids – miniature three-dimensional organ buds – grown from stem cells could help shed some light on autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Unique technology combination pinpoints the genetic signature of a blood stem cell

Although all the cells in a colony of blood cells may look alike, they may have different functions.  Tools to track and analyse individual stem cells within a cell population like this can help us better understand how the blood system works, and may have implications for cancer research.

New clues into how stem cells get their identity

Scientists at DanStem, the Danish Stem Cell Centre, University of Copenhagen have identified one mechanism that explains how some stem cells choose to become a given cell type: the cells combine specific sets of proteins at precise positions along the DNA. When these particular groups of proteins are combined, the gates are opened so that certain groups of genes can now be used, driving the cells towards a new identity.

Researchers discover back door into the cell

Researchers at the Hubrecht Institute and Utrecht University have developed a revolutionary and effective way of introducing molecular tools into cells. According to Dr. Niels Geijsen, who headed the research team, this discovery brings us one step closer to treating genetic diseases:

“The difficulty of treating genetic (inherited) diseases is that we, thus far, are unable to safely transport large therapeutic compounds, for example, proteins, into cells,” explains Geijsen. “ With our new technology, we’ve found that we can do this very efficiently.”

Direct reprogramming: another way of making human neurons

Direct reprogramming of cells (also called direct cell-fate conversion) is where one fully differentiated cell type changes directly into another. In the past, researchers thought this was impossible, especially for generating human neurons.  Now it has been shown to be not only possible, but also potentially simpler than other methods of creating neurons, such as creating induced pluripotent (iPS) cells to be subsequently differentiated into neurons.

Capturing the primordial human stem cells in the lab

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered a method to “reset” human embryonic stem cells to an earlier developmental stage, producing a type of stem cell up to now only seen in rodents.

Using time-lapse imagery to take a closer look at human embryonic stem cells

Time-lapse imaging and tracking of single human embryonic stem cells has allowed researchers to zoom in and take a closer look at the behaviour of these special cells. Researchers from the University of Sheffield have identified multiple bottlenecks that restrict the growth of these cells in the laboratory, and observed complex and diverse behaviour as the cells move around the culture dish and interact with their neighbours. These findings will help researchers design the best conditions to safely and efficiently grow human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. 

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