Last year, biologists found that precursor cells in the brain can act just like bone marrow and give rise to red and white blood cells (SN: 1/23/99, p. 54: http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc99/1_23_99/fob5.htm). In a reversal of that trick, investigators now report that they can efficiently transform human bone marrow into what appear to be nerve cells, or neurons.
Scientists have recently learned that bone marrow has great versatility. The tissue can produce blood, muscle, and liver cells (SN: 3/7/98, p. 150: http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arc98/3_7_98/fob2.htm; 7/1/00, p. 7: Available to subscribers at Do liver stem cells come from bone marrow?). In the new work, Ira Black of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, N.J., and his colleagues developed a broth of growth factors and antioxidants that somehow turns about 80 percent of growing marrow cells into cells that look like neurons.
The transformed cells, in accord with their new