Stem cells can develop into many different types of cells, including neurons that transmit information in the brain. Adult human-induced pluripotent stem cells, which resemble embryonic stem cells, can be used to develop drugs and model diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health. Scientists hope to use them in transplantation medicine.
While stem cells hold great potential for treating neurodegenerative diseases and central nervous system injuries, controlling and characterizing their fate are critical issues that need to be addressed before their potential use as treatments can be fully realized. Current methods for characterizing stem cell biomarkers destroy cellular activities and functions, which makes it difficult to conduct more definitive research that could lead to biomedical applications.
Using their nanotechnology platform, the scientists successfully monitored the generation of neurons from human stem cells by characterizing next generation biomarkers called exosomes - tiny particles released by cells that play a critical role in cell-to-cell communication. The scientists will further investigate their technology's versatility in other applications, such as detecting neurons in clinical settings.