Stem Cells Behind Adrenaline Rush Could Offer Hope for Chronic Pain Sufferers

Durham, NC (PRWEB) October 29, 2012

Deep within the medulla of the adrenal glands, microscopic chromaffin cells release the two hormones adrenaline and enkephalin to give that rush of energy when we are frightened or that second wind brought on by heavy exercise. According to a study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, a research team in Europe discovered a way to obtain these cells from adult humans and then isolate and force them to become neurons in the lab, bringing researchers one step closer to finding new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and chronic pain.

Monika Ehrhart-Bornstein, Ph.D., of Dresden University of Technologys Center for Regenerative Therapies (Germany), was a lead investigator on the team. Chromaffin progenitor cells seem to be a promising cell source due to the potential use in autologous transplantations, which avoids the possibility of immune rejection, she explained. Our team had recently described how we isolated chromaffin progenitor cells from the adrenal glands of cows and then treated them so that they differentiated into functional neurons. In this subsequent study, we wanted to learn whether these cells could also be obtained from adult human adrenal glands and then forced to differentiate into neurons, as a prerequisite for future use in transplantation trials.

Dr. Ehrhart-Bornstein collaborated with Dr. Claudia Cavadas, professor at the Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Portugal, in leading the team of researchers from both universities on the study. They adapted their bovine study method to obtain and isolate the human cells and then treated them with growth factor. When they examined the cells six days later, they had indeed differentiated into neuron-like cells.

This study both proves the existence of chromaffin progenitor cells in the human adrenal medulla and demonstrates that they can be isolated, Cavadas said. These cells may open new perspectives and challenges in the field of regenerative medicine, especially regarding their potential use in the treatment of neurodegenerative and neuroendocrine diseases.

Dr. Ehrhart-Bornstein added, While protocols need to be established to entirely remove other cell types from progenitor cultures for their therapeutic use, the potential of these progenitor cells to acquire both neuronal and chromaffin cell phenotypes is unquestionable, making them an interesting new cell source for cell-based therapies. The isolation and characterization of these valuable cells from human adrenals is the first step toward their potential future use in transplantation therapies.

These cells are not only an interesting source for cell therapy, said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, they may contribute to a better understanding of adrenal disease and dysfunction.


The full article, Isolation, characterization and differentiation of progenitor cells from human adult adrenal medulla, can be accessed at

About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine: STEM CELLS TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE (SCTM), published by AlphaMed Press, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices.

About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS

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