People with brain related conditions such as Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia have a window of hope, not far away- in their nose to be exact. A team of scientists at the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia are investigating stem cells from within the nose to treat such conditions.

Stem cells can be derived from tissues in the body are cellular blanks that exist, and can be triggered to change into other types of more complex cells as needed by the body. The scientists found that the olfactory system – which provides the sense of smell, contained adult stem cells very similar to those that would be active inside the brain.

The study of the neural stem cells, collected via a biopsy, would give scientists a new way to seek genetic factors thought to be driving many brain disorders. While the stem cells themselves could be used for therapy, the study could allow for earlier diagnosis of disease, and speed up the development of drug-based treatments.

“This was the first time researchers had found stem cells which could indicate what was different in the nervous systems of the patients, particularly for diseases where there are unknown genetic causes,” Alan Mackay-Sim, professor at Griffith University." Such brain-related changes were not evident in stem cells that could be derived from a person's skin or found in the blood.”

The study is being published in the November and December issue of Disease Models and Mechanisms journal.

Dr. Dennis Lox, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician practicing in the Tampa Bay area of Florida says “This is yet another step in the movement towards using stem cells to help severely injured patients”.

As an example, Dr. Lox points to a recent study in Italy of patients blinded with corneal injuries caused by chemical burns. The patients were injected with stem cells derived from their own bodies and many regained their vision.

Another area of interest is platelet-rich plasma (PRP). In this the patient’s blood is drawn and then separated in a centrifuge. The resulting plasma is a concentration of platelets, which are high in growth and healing factors. The PRP is then injected into the body area suffering from a chronic or slow-healing musculoskeletal injury or condition.

Dr. Lox concludes by saying, “These (stem cell) studies, as well as PRP, indicate the power that our own bodies have to heal ourselves – given the right technology. With the application of emerging stem cell technologies, I look forward to the future of medicine and the impact they will have on patients suffering from all sorts of conditions.”