Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Stem Cell Research Races Toward the Clinic

WebMD Health News

Nov. 3, 2000 -- How close are researchers to solving the mysteries of paralysis? Close enough to believe it may happen, according to new research out of Johns Hopkins and other institutions around the country. In fact, through the use of what's called stem cells, scientists may be bearing down on treatments not only for some types of paralysis, but also for other conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and traumatic brain injury.

Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat, researchers are managing to rapidly generate large numbers of nerve cells -- neurons -- out of the most unlikely places, including adult bone marrow and even the brains of donors who have been dead for more than 20 hours. And if the cells can be shown to work in humans as they have in animals, they hold the promise for dramatic improvements of many conditions.

New research being unveiled this week at a meeting of neuroscientists in New Orleans show the many possible treatments that could be developed through the use of immature cells known as stem cells, which are now being coaxed in the lab to become different types of nerve cells. The process of causing a cell to mature into a specific type of cell is called differentiation.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins report, for instance, that they've restored movement of newly paralyzed mice and rats by injecting neural stem cells into the animals' spinal fluid. Fifty percent of these stem cell-treated rodents recovered the ability to place the soles of both or one of their hind feet on the ground.

Hopkins' researcher Jeffrey Rothstein, MD, PhD, says in a written statement that "this research may lead most immediately to improved treatments for patients with paralyzing motor neuron diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [also called ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease] and another disorder, spinal motor atrophy."

These conditions are caused by disease and not injury. "Under the best research circumstances," Rothstein says, "stem cells could be used in early clinical trials within two years."

This is not the only advance being touted at the conference. Researchers admit to being both highly pleased and surprised by their ability to rapidly induce these cell changes.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix