Skip to comments.Skin cells turned directly into neurons
Posted on 01/28/2010 4:55:50 PM PST by Ramius
Skin cells turned directly into neurons
By Clive Cookson
Published: January 28 2010 02:00 | Last updated: January 28 2010 02:00
Stem cell scientists at Stanford University in California announced "a huge step forward" last night, with the publication of research that turned skin into nerve cells without any intermediate step.
The production of neurons [nerve cells] directly from other adult cells, without making stem cells en route, could transform "regenerative medicine" - providing a plentiful supply of neurons for treating people with degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's or those with spinal injuries.
"We actively and directly induced one cell type to become a completely different cell type," said Marius Wernig of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. "These are fully functional neurons. They can do all the principal things that neurons in the brain do."
This includes making connections with and signalling to other nerve cells - critical functions if the cells are eventually to be used as therapy for brain disease. The study is published online in the journal Nature .
Although research had suggested that specialised cells could be coaxed to show properties of other cell types, this is the first time skin cells have been converted into neurons in a laboratory.
The change happened within a week of treating mouse skin cells with a mixture of three genes, with an efficiency of up to nearly 20 per cent. The scientists are now working to duplicate the feat with human cells.
Until recently, scientists believed cellular differentiation was a one-way process, with primitive and versatile embryonic stem cells giving rise to all the body's more specialised cells.
Then, in 2007 they discovered how to turn the clock back, reversing the specialisation process by converting adult cells to "induced pluripotent stem cells", which could then become a different type of cell.
The latest discovery shows that this intermediate step is unnecessary. But many years of work will be needed before direct conversion reaches the clinic. .Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.
Millions of Democratic voters prove the lack of brain tissue in the US. Please help to end liberal cranial neuropathy with your donation of skin cells today.
The problems of the Demonrats are no skin off my nose, except that we conservatives must never let their crisis go to waste.
Skin cells and nerve cells arise from the same embryological layer, IIRC.
The little brain is made of skin. We already knew that.
Seems to me that an ability to change cells from one type to another could be transformational in medical treatments. And neurons of all things. I wonder if there could be implications for treatment of spinal injuries and brain damage. Wow.
I know it sounds strange, but the spinal cord forms in a vertebrate as a tubular infolding of the outer layer of the embryo, which also gives rise to skin. So there is some kind of kinship between skin and nerve cells. Some psychiatric drugs cause skin problems like psoriasis as side effects.
That’s interesting. Never heard that before.
pretty neat trick, thanks for the ping & the post
The ectoderm is the start of a tissue that covers the body surfaces. It emerges first and forms from the outermost of the germ layers. Generally speaking, the ectoderm differentiates to form the nervous system, and the epidermis (the outer part of integument).
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