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Stem Cells Research May Hold Promise in Neurological Disorders

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    Stem Cells Research May Hold Promise in Neurological Disorders

    Stem Cells Research May Hold Promise in Neurological Disorders

    By Michael Brush
    Exclusively for
    May 03, 2007

    As important as stem cell research is to the future of medicine, we’ve never noticed much insider buying in the space. So we haven’t had the opportunity to get exposure to the field.

    That changed last week when the finance chief of an emerging, but promising stem cell research company made a small purchase of his company’s stock.

    The company, called Neuralstem (NRLS), has technology that can isolate and grow the neurological stem cells which may eventually be used to treat a variety of central nervous system disorders. They include ailments like paralysis and Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gering’s disease, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's disease, and even depression.

    To be sure, this is an early-stage company. But preliminary research is promising and several potential catalysts for the stock lie just around the corner.

    They include:

    Publication of results from animal studies
    Experiments on humans which may begin as soon as the turn of the year
    A licensing partnership that could provide capital infusion and help verify the technology for the investment community
    A move to the American Stock Exchange from the bulletin board, which would open up the potential investor base.
    Let’s take a closer look.

    Use of stem cells to treat neurological disorders

    It’s still a fairly new science, but researchers at places like Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at San Diego believe it’s possible to use stem cells to cure lots of neurological disorders. Here’s why.

    When cells that make up our central nervous system are healthy, they are constantly metabolizing or producing substances like neurotransmitters, hormones, sugars, and amino acids. All this makes our central nervous system hum.

    But when these cells are damaged or destroyed, they can’t do all of this properly anymore. That’s the culprit behind illnesses like paralysis, Lou Gering’s disease, Parkinson’s and many others.

    Researchers believe it is possible that implanting healthy versions of the damaged cells into the trouble spot can regenerate the damaged cells or spur the production of healthier ones. “They integrate, and they rebuild the circuitry and deliver the specific molecules of interest,” explains Neuralstem chief executive Richard Garr. This is an area of science known as "regenerative medicine" or "cell therapy."

    Researchers know which kinds of neurological stem cells to put in, because they know the types of cells that are damaged in each type of disorder.

    People with Parkinson’s disease, for example, have lost dopamergic neurons.
    Victims of ischemic paralysis – which can occur when heart surgery goes wrong – have damaged gabaergic cells.
    When the problem is a break in the spinal cord, inserting the right type of cell may form a kind of bridge that rebuilds the circuitry.