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  • December 9, 2014

    Mice injected with human brain cells get smarter, scientists say

    What would Stuart Little make of it? Mice have been created whose brains are half-human. As a result, the animals are smarter than their siblings. The idea is not to mimic fiction but to advance understanding of human brain diseases by studying them in whole mouse brains rather than in laboratory dishes.

    The altered mice still have mouse neurons - the thinking cells that make up around half of all their brain cells. But practically all their glial cells, the ones that support the neurons, are human.

    It's still a mouse brain, not a human brain, says Steve Goldman of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. But all the non-neuronal cells are human.

  • November 17, 2014

    Researchers Using New Tools to Fight Brain Infection

    Researchers have developed new insight into a rare but deadly brain infection, called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). This disease – which is caused by the JC virus – is most frequently found in people with suppressed immune systems and, until now, scientists have had no effective way to study it or test new treatments.

    The JC virus is an example of an infection that specifically targets glia, the brain’s support cells, said neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and senior author of the paper. Because this virus only infects human glia and not brain cells in other species, it has eluded our efforts to better understand this disease. To get around this problem, we have developed a new mouse model that allows us to study human glia in live animals.

    The new discovery – which appears today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation – was the result of research using a new tool developed at the University of Rochester. Last year, Goldman and Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., reported that they had created a mouse model whose brains consisted of both animal neurons and human glia cells. While the previous study focused on the fact that the human cells essentially made the mice smarter, at the same time it created a powerful new platform for researchers to study human glial cells in live adult animals, including diseases that impact these cells.

  • September 30, 2014

    Research Seeks to Break New Ground in Understanding of Schizophrenia

    More than $6 million in funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is supporting new research that could fundamentally alter the way we comprehend and, perhaps ultimately, treat schizophrenia.

    The research - which is being led by University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine co-directors Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. - will explore the role that support cells found in the brain, called glia, play in the disease.

    The new research is possible because of findings published by Goldman and Nedergaard last year that showed that glial cells play an important role in the complex signaling activity that is unique to the human brain. In these experiments the researchers showed that when human glial cells were implanted into the brains of newborn mice the human cells influenced communication within the animals' brains, allowing the mice to learn more rapidly.

  • August 21, 2014

    Stem Cell Therapies Hold Promise, But Obstacles Remain

    In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and challenges facing the scientific community as therapies involving stem cells move closer to reality.

    The review article focuses on pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which are stem cells that can give rise to all cell types. These include both embryonic stem cells, and those derived from mature cells that have been reprogrammed or induced - a process typically involving a patient's own skin cells – so that they possess the characteristics of stem cells found at the earliest stage of development. These cells can then be differentiated, through careful manipulation of chemical and genetic signaling, to become virtually any cell type found in the body.

    The article addresses the current state of efforts to apply PSCs to treat a number of diseases, including diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease. Goldman, a distinguished professor and co-director of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Center for Translational Neuromedicine, reviewed the current state of therapies for neurological diseases.

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