Navigation Links
New genetic technique converts skin cells into brain cells

A research breakthrough has proven that it is possible to reprogram mature cells from human skin directly into brain cells, without passing through the stem cell stage. The unexpectedly simple technique involves activating three genes in the skin cells; genes which are already known to be active in the formation of brain cells at the foetal stage.

The new technique avoids many of the ethical dilemmas that stem cell research has faced.

For the first time, a research group at Lund University in Sweden has succeeded in creating specific types of nerve cells from human skin. By reprogramming connective tissue cells, called fibroblasts, directly into nerve cells, a new field has been opened up with the potential to take research on cell transplants to the next level. The discovery represents a fundamental change in the view of the function and capacity of mature cells. By taking mature cells as their starting point instead of stem cells, the Lund researchers also avoid the ethical issues linked to research on embryonic stem cells.

Head of the research group Malin Parmar was surprised at how receptive the fibroblasts were to new instructions.

"We didn't really believe this would work, to begin with it was mostly just an interesting experiment to try. However, we soon saw that the cells were surprisingly receptive to instructions."

The study, which was published in the latest issue of the scientific journal PNAS, also shows that the skin cells can be directed to become certain types of nerve cells.

In experiments where a further two genes were activated, the researchers have been able to produce dopamine brain cells, the type of cell which dies in Parkinson's disease. The research findings are therefore an important step towards the goal of producing nerve cells for transplant which originate from the patients themselves. The cells could also be used as disease models in research on various neurodegenerative diseases.

Unlike older reprogramming methods, where skin cells are turned into pluripotent stem cells, known as IPS cells, direct reprogramming means that the skin cells do not pass through the stem cell stage when they are converted into nerve cells. Skipping the stem cell stage probably eliminates the risk of tumours forming when the cells are transplanted. Stem cell research has long been hampered by the propensity of certain stem cells to continue to divide and form tumours after being transplanted.

Before the direct conversion technique can be used in clinical practice, more research is needed on how the new nerve cells survive and function in the brain. The vision for the future is that doctors will be able to produce the brain cells that a patient needs from a simple skin or hair sample. In addition, it is presumed that specifically designed cells originating from the patient would be accepted better by the body's immune system than transplanted cells from donor tissue.

"This is the big idea in the long run. We hope to be able to do a biopsy on a patient, make dopamine cells, for example, and then transplant them as a treatment for Parkinson's disease", says Malin Parmar, who is now continuing the research to develop more types of brain cells using the new technique.


Contact: Malin Parmar
Lund University

Related medicine news :

1. UT Southwestern research uncovers genetic link between emphysema, lung cancer
2. Scale helps to measure the utility of genetic counseling in tackling fear of cancer
3. Study identifies genetic mutations associated with cancer risk for hereditary cancer syndrome
4. Researchers characterize epigenetic fingerprint of 1,628 people
5. UCI researchers find link between environment and genetics in triggering MS
6. New advances in lipid genetics lead to better detection and prevention of major diseases
7. Researchers home in on genetic signature of esophageal cancer
8. Study gives clue as to how notes are played on the genetic piano
9. Scientists use genetically altered virus to get tumors to tattle on themselves
10. Evolutionary geneticist to give talk at UC Riverside on how biological species evolve and adapt
11. Genetic Test Shows Promise in Guiding Breast Cancer Care
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... Global Healthcare Management’s 4th Annual Kids ... Milford, NJ. This free event, sponsored by Global Healthcare Management’s CEO, Jon Letko, ... run is geared towards children of all ages; it is a non-competitive, non-timed event, ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... ... Journey: From the Mountains to the Mission Field”: the story of a missionary couple ... From the Mountains to the Mission Field” is the creation of published author, Carole ... and currently teaches a class of ladies at her church, which she has taught ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Planet Fitness, one of ... announced today its plans to open a flagship location in Covington, LA at 401 ... Rooms To Go store next to Office Depot in the Holiday Square shopping center. ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Asante, a nationally ... care, have expanded their existing home health joint venture through an agreement, effective ... operating a joint venture home health company with Asante, delivering clinically integrated care, ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Leading pediatric oncology experts at ... D.C., for the 49th Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology ... the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s National, and Stephen ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/2/2017)... 2017  AllianceRx Walgreens Prime, the combined central specialty ... pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics LLC (Prime), today officially ... the unveiling of new signage at its headquarters in ... at a few other company-owned facilities across the country. ... some of whom will begin to see the AllianceRx ...
(Date:9/27/2017)... 2017  Commended for their devotion to personalized service, SMP ... number one in the South Florida Business Journal,s 50 Fastest-Growing ... yearly list, the national specialty pharmacy has found its niche.  ... will soon be honored by SFBJ as the 2017 Power ... Set to receive his award in October, Bardisa said of ...
(Date:9/22/2017)... Sept. 22, 2017  As the latest Obamacare repeal ... Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham ... the medical device industry is in an odd place. ... the 2.3% excise tax on medical device sales passed ... want covered patients, increased visits and hospital customers with ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: