December 17, 2008

Fat cells may help treat CNS disorders

A Japanese study suggests mature fat cells called adipocytes might become sources for cell replacement therapy in treating central nervous system disorders.

The study's lead researcher, Yuki Ohta of the Institute of Medical Science at St. Mariana University School of Medicine in Kawasaki, Japan, said adipose-derived stem/stromal cells have already been shown to differentiate into neuronal cells in an in vitro setting. In the new study, and for the first time, fat cells were shown to successfully differentiate into neuronal cells in in vivo tests. The fat cells are grown under culture conditions that result in them becoming de-differentiated fat cells.

These cells, called DFAT cells, are plentiful and can be easily obtained from adipose tissue without discomfort and represent autologous (same patient) tissue, said Ohta. DFAT cells, with none of the features of adipocytes, do have the potential to differentiate into endothelial, neuronal or glial lineages.

Ohta and his colleagues said tests in animal models confirmed the injected cells survived without the aid of immunosuppression drugs and the DFAT-grafted animals showed significantly better motor function than controls.

We concluded DFAT-derived neurotrophic factors contributed to promotion of functional recovery after spinal cord injury, said Ohta.

The research appears in the journal Cell Transplantation.