Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bypassing stem cells, scientists make neurons directly from human skin

Date:
August 8, 2011
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Researchers have come up with a recipe for making functional neurons directly from human skin cells, including those taken from patients with Alzheimer's disease. The new method may offer a critical short cut for generating neurons for replacement therapies of the future. Already, the converted neurons are beginning to yield insights into what goes wrong in the Alzheimer's brain and how diseased neurons might respond to treatment.

Researchers have come up with a recipe for making functional neurons directly from human skin cells, including those taken from patients with Alzheimer's disease. The new method may offer a critical short cut for generating neurons for replacement therapies of the future, according to research published in the August 5th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication. Already, the converted neurons are beginning to yield insights into what goes wrong in the Alzheimer's brain and how diseased neurons might respond to treatment.

In earlier approaches to generate neurons from skin cells, those adult cells first had to be returned to an embryonic stem cell state. Those cells, called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, are hard to come by -- less than one percent of cells are typically reprogrammed successfully. In addition, the entire process is time-consuming, requiring months to coax cells into iPS cells and then stimulate them to become neurons.

"iPS cells are exciting given the limits on cloning and embryonic stem cells, but it is still a roundabout and lengthy process if the goal is to take patient cells or normal cells and use them as replacement cells," said Asa Abeliovich of Columbia University, senior author of this study.

Not only are there efficiency issues, there is also an increasing concern about the stability of iPS cells, he said. Their ability to grow and produce any cell type makes them a cancer risk. Moreover, the cells may have limited use as models for understanding disease states because the processes used to derive them "may erase or overwhelm" the natural biology of the cells.

To get around these potential pitfalls, Abeliovich's team started with known transcriptional regulators and, through a process of trial and error, identified a cocktail of factors that could turn human skin cells into neurons. While the process was not initially very efficient, they refined the protocol, ultimately converting about 50 percent of the cells.

"It is a huge leap over the iPS-based process," he said. It is also more efficient than a similar method recently developed by another group.

When studied in a dish, the neurons derived from healthy skin cells could fire and receive signals, just like normal neurons. What's more, when placed into the brains of developing mice, the converted cells were able to connect up to the existing circuitry. "They really are neurons," Abeliovich said.

The method can also produce neurons from the skin cells of patients with a rare familial form of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The AD neurons superficially looked normal, but upon closer inspection, Abeliovich's team saw abnormalities in the processing of amyloid precursor protein, the source for the amyloid plaques that riddle the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease. The neurons also showed more general differences in the way proteins inside the cell move around.

Abeliovich says that to really understand what goes wrong in Alzheimer's disease it will be important to look at what is happening in living human neurons. Earlier studies have been limited to exploring the consequences of the Alzheimer's mutations in tumor cells, skin cells or in mouse models of the disease.

Potentially the most exciting use of these Alzheimer's neurons will be for testing new drug candidates. Abeliovich notes that when the cells were treated with one existing candidate drug that reduces beta amyloid production, the protein 'trafficking' problem actually worsened, raising caution about that particular treatment. Going forward, his group plans to study neurons derived from skin cells from patients with the more common, sporadic forms of Alzheimer's disease.

"Sporadic disease accounts for 99 percent of cases and no one really knows if it is similar or different from the simpler genetic forms," Abeliovich said. "It's not a done deal that we'll be able to come up with answers, but at least we can now ask the question. In that sense, this is the tip of the iceberg."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Liang Qiang, Ryousuke Fujita, Toru Yamashita, Sergio Angulo, Herve Rhinn, David Rhee, Claudia Doege, Lily Chau, Laetitia Aubry, William B. Vanti et al. Directed Conversion Of Alzheimer's Disease Patient Skin Fibroblasts Into Functional Neurons. Cell, 5 August 2011; 146(3) pp. 359 - 371 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.07.007

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Bypassing stem cells, scientists make neurons directly from human skin." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804123853.htm>.
Cell Press. (2011, August 8). Bypassing stem cells, scientists make neurons directly from human skin. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804123853.htm
Cell Press. "Bypassing stem cells, scientists make neurons directly from human skin." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110804123853.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

How Nigeria Beat Its Ebola Outbreak

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) The World Health Organization has declared Nigeria free of Ebola. Health experts credit a bit of luck and the government's initial response. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Another Study Suggests Viagra Is Good For The Heart

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) An ingredient in erectile-dysfunction medications such as Viagra could improve heart function. Perhaps not surprising, given Viagra's history. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Ebola Worries End for Dozens on U.S. Watch Lists

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 20, 2014) Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., were cleared overnight of twice-daily monitoring after 21 days of showing no symptoms. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

Fauci: Ebola Protocols to Focus on Training

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he expects revised CDC protocols on Ebola to focus on training, observation and ensuring health care workers are more protected. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
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:

More Coverage


Human Skin Cells Converted Directly Into Functional Neurons

Aug. 4, 2011 Researchers have directly converted human skin cells into functional forebrain neurons, without the need for stem cells of any kind. The findings offer a new and potentially more direct way to ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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