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Biotech Medicine Science

Human Astrocytes Developed From Stem Cells 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the engineer-a-better-you dept.
RogerRoast writes "Astrocytes are the most ubiquitous cells in the brain. They perform critical support function to the neurons. These cells are also implicated in several human brain disorders. The U of Wisconsin researchers developed a method to create these cells from stem cells. According to the lead author Dr Zhang, 'not a lot of attention has been paid to these cells because human astrocytes have been hard to get, but we can make billions or trillions of them from a single stem cell.' The technology developed by the Wisconsin group lays a foundation to make all the different species of astrocytes. It may be possible to genetically engineer them to mimic disease so that previously inaccessible neurological conditions can be studied in the lab."
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Human Astrocytes Developed From Stem Cells

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  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday May 23, 2011 @04:25AM (#36215336)

    is News for Nerds.

    • by a_hanso (1891616)
      Aye. If I understand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrocyte#Functions [wikipedia.org] right, if neurons are the transistors, astrocytes are the wiring, circuit board and sundry capacitors/resistors. Disclaimer: I'm neither a neuroscience nor an electronics major.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Just you wait, in 30 years time we will be the jocks and the new nerds will have craniums twice the normal size. They will mock our puny intellects from their 7 foot tall vantage point, then don their robes and wizard hats before going off to have sex with the other blond haired blue eyed cosmetic-commercial-perfect super nerds.

      Kaaaaaaaaaaaaahn!

      • Gary Larson had prescience years ago to see that, with their superior cranial size, it will be trivial to put these super-nerds in a headlock.

        Just one of the very many bits of wisdom to remember from The Far Side.
      • by Phoghat (1288088)
        I, for one, welcome our new double sized cranium super nerd overlords providing they think up ways to do things that don't require my physical labour.
  • Human Atrocities Developed from Stem Cells

    surely I can think of a few.
  • It may be possible to genetically engineer them to mimic disease so that previously inaccessible neurological conditions can be studied in the lab.

    Hey, they've only been inaccessible because we've been unwilling to do to a few unlucky people what we do to lab animals all the time: put them down and harvest their diseased brains for research. It's for the Common Good of Man!

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Hm, I'm curious to exactly what in your brain causes you be such a sociopath. Perhaps you should go first?

      • by macraig (621737)

        Either I'm a sociopath or you're too literalistic....

  • Medical Applications (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jkflying (2190798) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:11AM (#36215530)

    Astrocytes are linked with the repair of spinal cord injuries. And as of 2008 stem cells can be made from pretty much any normal adult cell http://www.nature.com/stemcells/2008/0810/081030/full/stemcells.2008.142.html [nature.com] .

    The possibilities for the rehab of spinal cord injury patients is enough to make this an easy application of stem cell research, which might just earn the stem cell researchers some much needed good publicity from Washington.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      ...which might just earn the stem cell researchers some much needed good publicity from Washington.

      *ahem* The researchers are associated with University of Wisconsin! Not Washington (the "other UW").

      [/alumnus mode]

  • by asnelt (1837090) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:13AM (#36215534) Homepage
    There has been a lot of discussion lately about the importance of astrocytes. I didn't know that they are linked to certain neurological diseases. But at least for information processing they seem to be quite unimportant. There is a study that was published in Science where the researchers basically knocked out the signaling of all astrocytes in mice and the behaviour of the animals changed only marginally. A summary of this debate was published last year in an open access article in Nature: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101110/full/468160a.html [nature.com]
  • The article linked to says both. Shame on slashdot not being more specific as there's a world of difference between adult stem cells and embryonic in behavior post creation and transformation. Anybody know what the percentages were and the success of each type as far as remaining "safe" after the creation?
  • Is a symptom of the death of these cells.
  • I read this as "human atrocities developed from stem cells".

    Is there anything stem cells can't do?

  • I thought they said "Acolytes". Was I the only Warcraft player to immediately wonder what kind of magic this breed of Undead could do?

    • I thought they said aristocrats.

      Aristocrat zombies, that could be interesting...

      • I thought they said aristocrats.

        Aristocrat zombies, that could be interesting...

        I was thinking "The Aristocrats" too... but more in the horribly raunchy joke form.

  • The U of Wisconsin researchers developed a method to create these cells from stem cells.

    Alright, not trolling here, just genuinely curious. My understanding, at last via information gleaned from Slashdot and other news-oriented sites, was that the US government contributes very little (relatively speaking) to the field of Stem Cell research; not only that, but they have tons of laws in place to complicate and/or hamstring such research, and the research is politically unpopular. It sounds like the USA should more or less fall off the face of the map in terms of groundbreaking Stem Cell researc

    • You are allowed to use "existing lines" of stem cells and still get federal funding. Additionally, if federal funding is eschewed in favor of private funding, there is no issue. Finally since the rapture happened on May 21st, there are no more fundamentalist Christians in office to block stem cell funding, so we are all looking forward to some positive policy changes (sorry couldn't resist that one).
      • by Doctorer (1017662)
        Misleading initial claim. The funding restrictions apply to embryonic stem cells (ie lines sourced from aborted human fetuses) - no such restrictions hinder research involving "adult stem cells" (human pluripotent stem cells). hPSCs have proven far more effective in terms of positive results, but attracts very little attention compared to the far less successful embryonic stem cell research.
    • by MaWeiTao (908546)

      The US government doesn't ban the use of embryonic stem cells, they simply aren't providing the funding for it. Other organizations are free to do so. In addition, a ton of research is being done with adult stem cells and if I'm not mistaken, the government does fund that kind of research. And the fact is that this country throws far, far more money at medical research than pretty much any other country on Earth. So either way the breakthroughs are inevitable.

      • by Muros (1167213)
        I would assume too that, in the long run, adult stem cell research will be of more value for providing compatible stem cells for whetever fix is needed by a body.
  • I misread the article title as "Human Atrocities Developed From Stem Cells".
  • I found it interesting that while the article (second link) claims that these can be induced from both "embryonic and induced human" stem cells, the abstract of the paper itself (first link) names only "human pluripotent stem cells" (ie "adult stem cells") and makes no mention of embryonic cells.

    Both links refer to the one study, by the same people, so why does the second mention embryonic stem cells when the paper itself (or at least, the abstract) does not?

    Sounds like dirty scientific politics to me.

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