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How Scientific Research Confirmed the Potential of Mesenchymal Stem Cells for the Regeneration of Damaged Brain and Spine


Scientists have devised clever experiments to investigate the healing potential of stem cells. Since these experiments have to be conducted under controlled conditions, they can only be performed in laboratory animals, such as rats.

In the following simplified summaries of different experiments are shown by which important properties of mesenchymal stem cells were proven.

  1. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) have the ability to autonomously migrate to those areas in the body, where they are needed for repair and regeneration, e.g. the brain.
  2. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) have the ability to transform into brain cells, both supportive glial cells and actual neurons.

In order to prove this scientists have extracted bone marrow from male rats. The mesenchymal stem cells from the bone marrow carry a Y-chromosome (determining male sex). This Y-chromosome can be used as a marker (green fluorescence). The male bone marrow cells were then injected into the bone marrow of female mice, who do not have a Y-chromosome in their cells (black nucleus). After periods ranging between 3 and 70 days, the researchers then investigated the female rats’ brains. They found both glial cells (star shaped) and neurons (round) containing a Y-chromosome (green fluorescence), proving that they were derived from the male rat’s bone marrow cells.


Eglitis M A, Mezey É. Hematopoietic cells differentiate into both microglia and macroglia in the brains of adult mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1997;94:4080–4085. *Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Institute of Mental Health, and ‡Clinical Neuroscience Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, MD 20892.

Mezey et al. Turning Blood into Brain: Cells Bearing Neuronal Antigens Generated in Vivo from Bone Marrow. Science 2000;290:1779-1782. NIH


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