Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Better way to grow motor neurons from stem cells

Date:
April 1, 2014
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Researchers report they can generate human motor neurons from stem cells much more quickly and efficiently than previous methods allowed. The finding will aid efforts to model human motor neuron development, and to understand and treat spinal cord injuries and motor neuron diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

University of Illinois cell and developmental biology professor Fei Wang, left; visiting scholar Qiuhao Qu, center; materials science and engineering professor Jianjun Cheng; and their colleagues improved the process of converting stem cells into motor neurons. (Neurons are green; motor neurons are red in the image on the screen).
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

Researchers report they can generate human motor neurons from stem cells much more quickly and efficiently than previous methods allowed. The finding, described in Nature Communications, will aid efforts to model human motor neuron development, and to understand and treat spinal cord injuries and motor neuron diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Related Articles


The new method involves adding critical signaling molecules to precursor cells a few days earlier than previous methods specified. This increases the proportion of healthy motor neurons derived from stem cells (from 30 to 70 percent) and cuts in half the time required to do so.

"We would argue that whatever happens in the human body is going to be quite efficient, quite rapid," said University of Illinois cell and developmental biology professor Fei Wang, who led the study with visiting scholar Qiuhao Qu and materials science and engineering professor Jianjun Cheng. "Previous approaches took 40 to 50 days, and then the efficiency was very low -- 20 to 30 percent. So it's unlikely that those methods recreate human motor neuron development."

Qu's method produced a much larger population of mature, functional motor neurons in 20 days.

The new approach will allow scientists to induce mature human motor neuron development in cell culture, and to identify the factors that are vital to that process, Wang said.

Stem cells are unique in that they can adopt the shape and function of a variety of cell types. Generating neurons from stem cells (either embryonic stem cells or those "induced" to revert back to an embryo-like state) requires adding signaling molecules to the cells at critical moments in their development.

Wang and other colleagues previously discovered a molecule (called compound C) that converts stem cells into "neural progenitor cells," an early stage in the cells' development into neurons. But further coaxing these cells to become motor neurons presented unusual challenges.

Previous studies added two important signaling molecules at Day 6 (six days after exposure to compound C), but with limited success in generating motor neurons. In the new study, Qu discovered that adding the signaling molecules at Day 3 worked much better: The neural progenitor cells quickly and efficiently differentiated into motor neurons.

This indicates that Day 3 represents a previously unrecognized neural progenitor cell stage, Wang said.

The new approach has immediate applications in the lab. Watching how stem cells (derived from ALS patients' own skin cells, for example) develop into motor neurons will offer new insights into disease processes, and any method that improves the speed and efficiency of generating the motor neurons will aid scientists. The cells can also be used to screen for drugs to treat motor neuron diseases, and may one day be used therapeutically to restore lost function.

"To have a rapid, efficient way to generate motor neurons will undoubtedly be crucial to studying -- and potentially also treating -- spinal cord injuries and diseases like ALS," Wang said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The original article was written by Diana Yates. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Qiuhao Qu, Dong Li, Kathleen R. Louis, Xiangzhen Li, Hong Yang, Qinyu Sun, Shane R. Crandall, Stephanie Tsang, Jiaxi Zhou, Charles L. Cox, Jianjun Cheng, Fei Wang. High-efficiency motor neuron differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells and the function of Islet-1. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4449

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Better way to grow motor neurons from stem cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401102924.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2014, April 1). Better way to grow motor neurons from stem cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401102924.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Better way to grow motor neurons from stem cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401102924.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Don't Fall For Flu Shot Myths

Don't Fall For Flu Shot Myths

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Misconceptions abound when it comes to your annual flu shot. Medical experts say most people older than 6 months should get the shot. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Indians Muck in for Cleaner Communities

Indians Muck in for Cleaner Communities

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) India's government is urging all citizens to come together in a mass movement to clean the nation -- but will people heed the call? Duration: 02:39 Video provided by AFP
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:

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