June 08, 2012
Skin Cells Converted In Neural Stem Cells

Need brain rejuvenation? Time to take a skin cell sample and use it to make brain stem cells The brain stem cells have both research and therapeutic potential.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—June 7, 2012—Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have for the first time transformed skin cells—with a single genetic factor—into cells that develop on their own into an interconnected, functional network of brain cells. The research offers new hope in the fight against many neurological conditions because scientists expect that such a transformation—or reprogramming—of cells may lead to better models for testing drugs for devastating neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

These scientists see an advantage in their technique because they do not convert the skin cells all the way into general purpose pluripotent stem cells. The fear with pluripotent stem cells is that they might go rogue in the body and act like cancer. Pluripotent stem cells simply have too much potential and can convert into too many other cell types.

In findings appearing online today in Cell Stem Cell, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Investigator Yadong Huang, MD, PhD, describe how they transferred a single gene called Sox2 into both mouse and human skin cells. Within days the skin cells transformed into early-stage brain stem cells, also called induced neural stem cells (iNSCs). These iNSCs began to self-renew, soon maturing into neurons capable of transmitting electrical signals. Within a month, the neurons had developed into neural networks.

The transformation of cells into assorted specialized stem cell types will become less risky once scientists develop technology to cheaply screen out cells that have too many dangerous mutations in them. We need stem cells with good genetic state (no risky mutations or mutations that reduce functionality), good epigenetic state (they should be solidly in a desired state rather than a mix of states), and youthful (long telomere chromosome caps).

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 June 08 06:54 PM  Biotech Stem Cells

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