Scientists Can Now Extract Stem Cells from Brains Using Magnets

Nothing about how a bunch of Oxford researchers recently pulled neural stem cells out of the brains of living rats seems feasible. The cells are hard to isolate. Brains are fragile. Okay, brains are very fragile. But they've done it, and the procedure could shed fresh light on diseases like Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

The procedure itself sounds simple enough, if you sort of ignore the fact that scientists are digging around inside of a rat's skull. Oxford's Edman Tang and his team first coated magnetic nanoparticles with antibodies that have a tendency to bond with a type of protein found on neural stem cells. After about six hours, the researchers used a magnet to pull the nanoparticles together, and then extracted them from the brain using a syringe. Amazingly, none of this appears to have damaged the rat's brain, and the neural stem cells grew freely in a petri dish once extracted.

Needless to say, this technique is going to be a little bit more complicated when used on a human brain. For one, humans don't have as many neural stem cells as rodents, and those that we do have aren't as active, so there's a chance that they wouldn't regrow outside of the brain. But he if we can connect two human brains, letting one person control the other's mind using a technique first developed on rats, we probably can do anything. [New Scientist]

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