Brain Researchers have identified another alternative to fetal tissue as a source of viable human brain cells. In a Brief Communication (Nature, Vol. 411, No. 6833, 03 May 2001), Fred Gage, of the Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, and colleagues describe their feat of culturing neural progenitor cells from the brains of cadavers.
Gage and colleagues were able to extract viable cells from most of the 23 post-mortem brains they examined. The ages of the deceased ranged from a few weeks to adult, and functioning cells were obtained up to 20 hours after death.
The possible medical applications of this work are still hazy, and, although ethically less fraught, these post-mortem cells are not as powerful as those from fetal tissue. But the research raises the hope that neural progenitor cells, like organs, could one day be taken from the dead and given to the living.
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