Memory cells killed by Alzheimers grown in lab

London: In what`s being hailed as a major step forward in developing treatments for Alzheimer`s, scientists claim to have grown brain`s memory cells that are most vulnerable to attack from the disease.

An international team has turned stem cells derived originally from skin into sophisticated types of neurons in the brain that are critical to memory retrieval and are killed by the degenerative condition.

According to the scientists, the development could lead to the discovery of new drug treatments and even transplantation to repair brain damage.

In early Alzheimer`s, the ability to retrieve memories is lost, not the memories themselves and the reason is that cells, called basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, are killed. There is a relatively small population of the neurons in brain and their loss has devastating effect on ability to remember.

The idea is that by reproducing a limitless supply of these cells the scientists can work out a way to protect them from dying in the first place and lead to transplantation into people with Alzheimer`s, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.

"Now that we have learned how to make these cells, we can study them in a tissue culture dish and figure out what we can do to prevent them from dying," said Dr Jack Kessler, who led the study at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Stem cells are "master cells" which can become any other cell in the body. Most researchers take them from embryos where they are abundant but increasingly scientists are able to "turn back the clock" of mature cells.