Scientist has discovered a novel way to convert human skin cells into brain cells. This finding would offer hope for regenerative medicine.
Sheng Ding, PhD, from the Gladstone Institutes reveals efficient and robust methods for transforming adult skin cells into neurons that are capable of transmitting brain signals, marking one of the first documented experiments for transforming an adult human's skin cells into functioning brain cells.
"This work could have important ramifications for patients and families who suffer at the hands of neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease," said Lennart Mucke, MD, who directs neurological research at Gladstone.
Dr. Ding's work builds on the cell-reprogramming work of another Gladstone scientist, Senior Investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD. Dr. Yamanaka's 2006 discovery of a way to turn adult skin cells into cells that act like embryonic stem cells.
Dr. Ding used two genes and a microRNA to convert a skin sample from a 55-year-old woman directly into brain cells. (MicroRNAs are tiny strands of genetic material that regulate almost every process in every cell of the body.) The cells created by Dr. Ding's experiments exchanged the electrical impulses necessary for brain cells to communicate things such as thoughts and emotions.
"These cells are not ready yet for transplantation," Dr. Ding said.
"But this work removes some of the major technical hurdles to using reprogrammed cells to create transplant-ready cells for a host of diseases," he added.
The study was recently published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.