September 10, 2009
Snort Stem Cells, Not Cocaine

New Scientist reports from the latest Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS - all about reversing the aging process) conference in Cambridge UK and reveals some scientists find they can deliver stem cells into mouse brains with nose drops.

Since proteins, bacteria and viruses can enter the brain this way, Lusine Danielyan at the University Hospital of Tübingen in Germany, and her colleagues, wondered if stem cells would also migrate into the brain through the cribriform plate.

To test their idea, they dripped a suspension of fluorescently labelled stem cells into the noses of mice. The mice snorted them high into their noses, and the cells migrated through the cribriform plate. Then they travelled either into the olfactory bulb - the part of the brain that detects and deciphers odours - or into the cerebrospinal fluid lining the skull, migrating across the brain. The stem cells then moved deeper into the brain.

Now all we need are stem cells suitably programmed to, for example, replace aged neurons, aged glial cells, and even aged cells in brain arteries and veins. Then snort up.

Improvements in methods to create induced pluripotent stem cells (most recently at Stanford using fat cells) create the prospect of stem cells created from one's own body. No need to worry about immune rejection. We probably still need further improvements that reduce risk that the stem cells will turn cancerous. Then we need improvements in methods to turn pluripotent stem cells into whatever stem cell types we most want to send in the brain.

Okay, suppose we jump ahead 10 or 20 years and those problems are solved. Time to snort stem cells to improve our brains. That'll help aging brains. But where it gets really interesting is when we discover which genetic variations contribute to higher intelligence. Can stem cells genetically engineered for high IQ genes boost our intelligence? If so, snorting stem cells could make a whole society smarter. In 20 years will that become possible?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 September 10 07:47 PM  Brain Disorder Repair

Wolf-Dog said at September 10, 2009 11:24 PM:

The stem cells taken from the body certainly work, for instance, there are successful commercial methods of harvesting bone marrow stem cells from the patient and then to inject these. However, the danger is that stem cell therapy can trigger dormant cancer cells that are probabilistically in circulation, and this is a very serious danger in the long run. This issue must be addressed in the long run.

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