Skin cells turned into brain cells in the lab
By combining skin cells with a group of cell programming molecules, scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSTL) in St. Louis have found a way to create brain cells.
The study, published in the journal Neuron, is noteworthy in two main ways, researchers said. First, the original skin cells converted directly into brain cells instead of reverting to stem cells first. Cells that first convert to stem cells come with the risk of forming other types of cells, which can cause complications. Secondly, the brain cells that were created were all a specific type. Targeting and producing a specific type of brain cell could help in studying specific brain diseases such as Huntington's Disease.
Previous research has shown that exposing skin cells to RNA molecules, miR-9 and miR-124 has the programming potential to create different types of brain cells. In the new study, the researchers used an environment similar to that of brain cells. Then, by fine tuning a cocktail of chemical signals between the skin cells and RNA molecules, the team was able to specifically target and create spiny neuron cells.
Although the study was successful in mouse trials, the exact mechanisms by which the brain cells were created are still being explored. The team is currently studying skin cells from those with Huntington’s disease, a disease that degenerates mental ability and causes involuntary movements,