IT is a sobering thought that at present not a single neurodegenerative disorder can be reversed, none halted, and the evidence that any can even be slowed down is very slight. Useful interventions for more acute CNS injury – trauma, established stroke – are little better. This unimpressive therapeutic armoury has helped stimulate the search for more imaginative, regenerative treatments, generally based on cell implantation. The complexity of brain structure and function presents daunting challenges to this approach, but decades of animal studies have illustrated real potential, and early clinical studies show promise. The advent of embryonic stem cell technology has loudly focused public attention on regenerative medicine, but will stem cells imminently – or ever – unleash their ‘huge power to end suffering’ and ‘prove the Holy Grail in finding treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, leukaemia and multiple sclerosis’?
Whilst few neuroscientists doubt that stem cell
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