Motor Neurons Created From Stem Cells

Ed. Note: The following is a press release from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

LARCHMONT, N.Y--March 29, 2005--For the first time scientists have successfully induced embryonic stem cells to differentiate into motor neurons, ensuring a renewable supply of these critical nerve cells for use in studying neural development and developing novel drugs and regenerative cell therapies to treat motor neuron diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, as reported in the June issue (Volume 14, Number 3) of Stem Cells and Development, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The paper is available free online ahead of publication at

Soojung Shin, Ph.D., Stephen Dalton, Ph.D., and Steven L. Stice, Ph.D., from the Regenerative BioScience Center at the University of Georgia, grew NIH-approved human embryonic stem cells in culture and induced them to differentiate into motor neuron cells by adding basic fibroblast growth factor, sonic hedgehog protein, and retinoic acid to the culture medium. Based on the growth characteristics and the gene expression patterns of the differentiated cells, the authors determined that 20% to 30% of the cells exhibited a motor neuron phenotype. The authors predict that this percentage will increase as their process is refined.

The ability to produce a renewable supply of neuroepithelial cells that can be reliably induced to become motor neurons greatly benefits the potential for using embryonic stem cells as therapeutic agents to repair and regenerate neural tissue damaged by trauma or disease.

"The study by Drs. Shin, Dalton, and Slice provides a source of cells that will be useful to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that regulate both the development and survival of motor neurons," states Denis English, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of Stem Cells and Development. "While it is possible that cells generated by this method will show therapeutic utility, this goal has been elusive and in all probability will not be attained in the absence of further, persistent study of motor neurons generated from stem cells in culture. This study provides a means to do just that and should facilitate the therapeutic endpoints we seek."

Stem Cells and Development is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and online. The journal is dedicated to communication and objective analysis of developments in the biology, characteristics, and therapeutic utility of stem cells, especially those of the hematopoietic system. A complete table of contents and free sample issue may be viewed online at

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Cloning and Stem Cells, Human Gene Therapy, and Tissue Engineering. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide.