Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New genetic technique converts skin cells into brain cells

Date:
June 13, 2011
Source:
Lund University
Summary:
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 fetal stage.

Photomicrograph of fibroblast cells in tissue culture.
Credit: iStockphoto/Torsten Wittmann

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 fetal 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 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lund University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. U. Pfisterer, A. Kirkeby, O. Torper, J. Wood, J. Nelander, A. Dufour, A. Bjorklund, O. Lindvall, J. Jakobsson, M. Parmar. Direct conversion of human fibroblasts to dopaminergic neurons. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1105135108

Cite This Page:

Lund University. "New genetic technique converts skin cells into brain cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110609084815.htm>.
Lund University. (2011, June 13). New genetic technique converts skin cells into brain cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110609084815.htm
Lund University. "New genetic technique converts skin cells into brain cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110609084815.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Big Pharma Braces for M&A Wave

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 22, 2014) Big pharma on the move as Novartis boss, Joe Jimenez, tells Reuters about plans to transform his company via an asset exchange with GSK, and Astra Zeneca shares surge on speculation that Pfizer is looking for a takeover. Joanna Partridge reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

Hagel Gets Preview of New High-Tech Projects

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is given hands-on demonstrations Tuesday of some of the newest research from DARPA _ the military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins