Gutsy brains

Tissue from the gut transplanted into the brain could help repair nerve and brain disorders, and halt the slow degeneration seen in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, says Geoffrey Burnstock of the University College of London (New Scientist, Vol 139, No 1890).

Burnstock's work focusses on the 100 million nerve cells found in the gut. In experiments on rat tissue, he found that these specialised cells encourage regeneration of brain cells. He has also shown that these cells can survive and grow in the brains of rats, raising the possibility of repairing damaged brain or spinal tissue with transplanted gut cells. However, it is still to be seen whether the procedure would work in humans.