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Scientists turn human skin cells into functional brain cells

Zeenews Bureau

San Francisco: Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have, for the first time, transformed skin cells into early-stage brain stem cells called induced neural stem cells with the help of a gene called Sox2.

Researchers suggest that such a transformation of cells could pave way for new ways to treat Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.
The Research comes at the time when it is a known fact that about 5.4 million people in the United States itself have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to increase three times by 2050. At present, when there are no proper approved drug treatments to prevent the disease, this lab study proves to be a silver lining in the cloud.

According to this research which was published online June 7 in the journal Cell Stem Cell, these cells began to self-renew and soon matured into neurons capable of transmitting electrical signals. Within a month, these new neurons had developed into neural networks.

“Human neurons, derived from reengineered skin cells, could help assess the efficacy and safety of these drugs, thereby reducing risks and resources associated with human trials,” explained Gladstone investigator Dr Yadong Huang, who is also an associate professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Also known as iPS cells, these cells can become virtually any cell type in the human body—just like embryonic stem cells”, he added.