Neural stem cell scientist, Dr. Timothy Blenkinsop makes a game-changing discovery for stem cell transplantation.

Neural stem cell scientist, Dr. Timothy Blenkinsop has made a game-changing discovery for stem cell transplantation. “Essentially what we’ve been able to show is that theses cells that we have been culturing, when transplanted into the space behind the retina, they can actually survive for at least a month, which means, in theory that using these RPE stem cells (retinal pigment epithelium – a layer of cells behind the retina that are crucial to vision) could eventually become a therapeutic solution to RPE diseases.  Any time your RPE dies, whether from injury or disease, vision loss occurs and cell replacement is one of the most promising therapies to prevent and treat visual deficit. This is the whole idea behind stem cells and why they’re so exciting right now. Stem cell research holds the promise of replacing damaged tissue with healthy tissue, thereby restoring lost function. Just the fact that we could potentially be able to take cells from a cadaver and grow them up in a dish and re-transplant them into somebody that needs that tissue is very exciting!”

There were many questions that preceded the experiment.  Dr. Blenkinsop explains, “Can we transplant a differentiated cell into the back of the eye and will it stay differentiated and will it stay oriented?”   And, he shares, “That’s what we showed.  The monolayer of RPE cells that were transplanted from a human cadaver into a large eye animal model, the rabbit, survived and maintained their polarity.”  In addition to the cells remaining stable, Blenkinsop’s team was also concerned about an immunological reaction.  Will the cells be attacked?  Will the cells maintain their identity?  But, for a month the cells stayed put.

The study was not without caveats, but Tim is confident that this is a major move forward in transplanting and regenerating tissue in vivo.  And, this publication is very likely to have a high impact. The eye is at the forefront of stem cell transplantation.  It’s the most accessible portion of the central nervous system.  Timothy explains, “It’s the pioneer spot for this type of research.”  If there is progress made here, it is possible that there will be translatable ideas that can aid in the cures for other diseased areas of the central nervous system.

Published in Stem Cell Reports, part of the Cell Journal group, and the flagship journal for ISSCR the leading for stem cell researchers worldwide, the full report can be read here. Dr. Blenkinsop, collaborating with Dr. Boris Stanzel and his group at the Bonn University Hospital in Bonn, Germany, flew to Germany and assisted in the implantation surgery.  He has been with the Neural Stem Cell Institute for five years under the leadership of MacArthur Genius Award Recipient, Dr. Sally Temple.  Originally from the Midwest, Dr. Blenkinsop recounts that as a young person he dreamt of doing experiments that could help people. After his brother lost his sight in a motorcycle accident, he decided to devote himself to eye research. With great contentment from this breakthrough, he admits, “I didn’t think it was possible.”

Save the Date: The 3rd Annual Stem Cell Soiree – July 9, 2014

The 3rd Annual Stem Cell Soiree to be held at Saratoga National Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Join us for this meaningful fundraising event giving hope to those suffering with diseases of the central nervous system.  A cure can be seen for the life-altering diseases of macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.  Revolutionary treatments  are in sight. World renowned researcher, Dr. Sally Temple shares the latest findings of her work on the regenerative possibilities and potential medical applications of stem cells.  Driven by this potential, MacArthur Genius Award recipient, Dr. Temple leads research in neural stem cell science.  Please help forward her mission. Become a stakeholder in the cures. For sponsorship information contact Suzanne Kawola (518)694-8188, ext.242

Connect. Learn. Support.

NSCI-Banner-eysConnect with scientists at NSCI.  Satisfy your curiosity and find out how stem cell research is pioneering medical research.  Call today to plan a tour, listen to the Stem Cell Podcast , follow our blog, or check in on Facebook or Twitter.  We welcome all visitors.  The science happening here is setting the foundation for changing medicine.  The possibility of curing atrocious diseases of the central nervous system from macular degeneration to spinal cord injury and other catastrophic brain injuries.  It starts here.

Learn what role we are playing in world class scientific innovation, right here in Rensselaer. Our unparalleled research will change the prognosis for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease  and Parkinson’s disease.  And, you can participate!  Look down a microscope at real cells, that will give rise to new tissues and therapeutic applications.  Our research will turn a former miracle into reality.

Support our mission for developing regenerative stem cell therapies.  We are driven to give hope to those in need. Please join us in our goal to cure the debilitating diseases like Multiple Sclerosis  that steal people’s lives.  A donation in any amount will get us closer.  Please call or write for more specific giving like ongoing program support or estate planning.  And, join us at our Annual Stem Cell Soiree, this July 9, 2014 at Saratoga National Golf Club.

Become a stakeholder in the future of medicine.

NSCI Scientist Chris Bjornsson, PhD. Speaks at Society for Neuroscience Annual Conference at The San Diego Conference Center, 2013

Recently, NSCI’s Dr. Chris Bjornsson presented at the largest neuroscience conference in the world, with over 30,000 attendees. Dr. Bjornsson spoke in a mini symposia, sharing the topic of the choroid plexus with 5 other speakers.  Two speakers in his group spoke about development, Chris focused on aging, then the discussion turned to diseases and engineering for drug/ cellular therapies. Out of the six speakers in Chris’ group, he shares, “Each of us individually brought something different to the table.”

“I was more nervous than I was in ages and ages.  I’ve done teaching since my Ph.D. I’ve taught entire courses. I’ve taught labs every day, every week. I taught during my time as a post-doc at the Wadsworth Center, I’ve given seminars, I’ve given speeches, I’ve done training.  And, I haven’t been this nervous since I presented my Ph.D. defense! So it was a rush!  It was a huge rush.”

Chris brought with him his extremely unique montage images of the choroid plexus and sub ventricular zone.  He says about them, “It’s hard to appreciate how important this tissue is, the extent that it occupies in these cavities, because most of the time when we look at sectioned material we don’t even see it, so here it is.  Here’s everything.”  Chris shared a common image of the choroid plexus and then compared his image, which shows significantly more of the complexities of this region of the brain.  And, he says that everyone was in awe.

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Photo by Dr. Chris Bjornsson

This series of photographs of the choroid plexus are unique to Chris’ research and to our lab.  Since the conference, he’s had many requests to share them.

Chris admits, “It’s the first time I’ve presented at a conference in front of a group that large and with so much attached to it.  It’s a real affirmation that the things that you are doing are worthwhile and that you are moving in the right direction.  The choroid plexus in neuroscience has generally been under appreciated.  It’s like a forest. You need the air to breathe. It has a more global effect.”

What’s next for Dr. Bjornsson:  Studying how the sub-ventricular zone and choroid plexus collaborate in the aging process and how stem cells could participate in therapeutic outcomes.