For the first time ever, researchers have converted human skin cells into appetite controlling neurons, which might eventually provide obesity cure.
The study, led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and at the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF), found that cells provided individualized model for studying obesity and testing treatments.
To make the neurons, human skin cells were first genetically reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Like natural stem cells, iPS cells are capable of developing into any kind of adult cell when given a specific set of molecular signals in a specific order.
The iPS cell technology has been used to create a variety of adult human cell types, including insulin-producing beta cells and forebrain and motor neurons.
The CUMC/NYSCF team determined which signals are needed to transform iPS cells into arcuate hypothalamic neurons, a neuron subtype that regulates appetite. The transformation process took about 30 days.
The neurons were found to display key functional properties of mouse arcuate hypothalamic neurons, including the ability to accurately process and secrete specific neuropeptides and to respond to metabolic signals such as insulin and leptin.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.