Breakthrough research involving a brain transplant of stem cells could offer hope for the treatment of both autism and Parkinson's disease.
The study, from Harvard University, has already proven successful with mice. Scientists transferred healthy stem cells from mouse embryos into the brains of adult mice who were unable to use leptin, a hormone that tells the body when to stop eating.
Following the transplant, the mice were able to process the hormone and went on to lose weight.
Researchers chose to study obesity because it would be obvious whether or not the experiment had worked but their ultimate target is complex conditions such as Parkinson's, autism, epilepsy, motor neuron disease and spinal cord injuries.
Jeffery Macklis, of Harvard University, said: “We have used complex circuitry as a test case for whether precisely selected and controlled neuron transplants could rewire the brain.
“What we found is that these neurons not only turned into the right types of cells, but they sent signals to the recipient’s brain and received signals from the recipient’s brain.
“The next step for us is to ask parallel questions of other parts of the brain and spinal cord, those involved in ALS [motor neuron disease] and with spinal cord injuries.
The study was published in the journal, Sciencehttp://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/11/transplanted-neurons-curb-obesit.html.
“Can we rebuild circuitry in the mammalian brain? I suspect that we can.”