A detailed model has been built for a “cellular factory” that can produce motor neurons from embryonic stem cells, a development that could lead to treatments for people with spinal cord injuries and movement diseases such as Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s.

Reporting in the June 5 issue of the journal Neuron, Salk Institute researcher Sam Pfaff and postdoctoral fellow Soo-Kyung Lee provide a detailed model of how stem cells are prodded, regulated and encouraged to become the motor neurons needed to move muscles and limbs.

“In adults, the growth cues that produce motor neurons from stem cells are gone,” says Pfaff. “The signaling is gone after development is over, denying new, transplanted cells any cues for growth. This model, if it proves effective in humans, may help recreate those cues to help treat these injuries and diseases.”
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