Scientists have reported that they have successfully transplanted human stem cell-derived neurons into the brains of living mice. Human embryonic stem cells grown in a culture with mouse neurons were then implanted into a living mouse’s hippocampus.
These mice neurons had a very specific trait. They were activated by light. The study demonstrated that the human neurons actually adapted and adopted this same behavior. The human cells also became part of the network and functioned normally with the mouse’s nervous system after it was implanted. What this means is that neurons can be reprogrammed or trained, and then transplanted into a brain. And if you can train neurons, you now have another way to treat and cure disease.
This works across two different species; so thinking even further down the line, I can’t help but wonder just how many different orders of animals could have their neurons merged and still be compatible. Imagine the possibilities not just to cure humans, but to cure animals as well. This opens up a world of possibilities. And does it work the opposite way? Could mice neurons be compatible when put into us? This could lead us down all kinds of exciting paths.
Reference: “Human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons adopt and regulate the activity of an established neural network” by Jason P. Weick, Yan Liu and Su-Chun Zhang, 21 November 2011, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.