Electric field used to direct neural stem cells

Written by Adam Tarring

New research has shown that electric fields are capable of directing human neural stems cells in a murine model.

Researchers from University of California Davis (UC Davis; CA, USA) have discovered that electric fields are capable of directing human neural stem cells in a murine model. This study could lead to more effective regenerative medicine for brain injury and was recently published in Stem Cell Reports.

Stems cells that are naturally present in the human brain are usually found in the subventricular zone and hippocampus, which are deep inside the brain. To repair damage to the outer layers of the brain, they would have to migrate a great distance; transplanted stem cells also face this challenge.

“One unmet need in regenerative medicine is how to effectively and safely mobilize and guide stem cells to migrate to lesion sites for repair,” commented study lead author Min Zhao, Institute for Regenerative Cures, School of Medicine (UC Davis). “Inefficient migration of those cells to lesions is a significant roadblock to developing effective clinical applications.” 

Researchers discovered that by applying an electric field they could cause human neural stem cells to move against natural cues and fluid flow to other parts of the brain in the murine model. They also discovered that the stem cells remained in the new locations for an extended period.

“Electrical mobilization and guidance of stem cells in the brain therefore provides a potential approach to facilitate stem cell therapies for brain diseases, stroke and injuries,” concluded Zhao.  

Sources: Feng JF, Liu J, Zhang L et al. Electrical Guidance of Human Stem Cells in the Rat Brain. Stem Cell Reports. 11;9(1):177-189 (2017); https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/n…