(NEW YORK, NY)—Scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering and elsewhere are cultivating the art and science of manipulating embryonic stem cells — the immature cells from which all the body’s organs and tissues develop — to form nerve cells, muscle cells, insulin-producing cells, and essentially any cell type of interest.

Investigators have used stem-cell engineering to create nerve cells that might be used to treat Parkinson’s, and have also developed advanced tools for research into melanoma,pancreatic cancer, a rare brain tumor, and other diseases.

Today, in an article published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, an MSK research team reports on another potential use of the technology: as a way to heal radiation-induced brain injury.

The researchers turned stem cells into young central nervous system cells that can mature into oligodendrocytes, which support nerve cells. After exposing rats to brain radiation, they transplanted the engineered oligodendrocytes into the animals’ brains. The cells repaired some of the radiation injury and helped the animals recover a number of brain functions that had been compromised by the treatment.

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