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Skin to brain: the promise of adult stem cells

12 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 266

British researchers revealed last week that skin cells can be made to turn into neurones (nerve cells). The research, published in the July 10th edition of The Lancet, adds to the growing list of adult stem cell abilities and may lead to therapies for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, collected skin tissue from seven donors aged between 41 and 77. Growing this tissue in the lab, they were able to induce the cells to become neural stem cells using growth hormones, and then serum (blood without the red blood cells). Confirmation that the cells were neural stem cells came by testing for a specific protein called nestin. The research team then coaxed the neural stem cells to become neurones using a brain chemical.

Dr Siddharthen Chandran, who headed the research team, said, 'This study provides a platform for further experimental studies and raises the possibility of generating nerve cells from an individual's own cells, thus overcoming issues of rejection of transplanted nerve cells from other donors'. Using adult stem cells skirts the ethical issues of embryonic stem cells. As well as cell transplants, researchers can use lab-produced neurones to test the efficacy and safety of drugs.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Brain cells from skin cells, new hope for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Medical News Today |  9 July 2004
Brain cells in the palm of your hand
BetterHumans |  9 July 2004
Efficient generation of neural precursors from adult human skin: astrocytes promote neurogenesis from skin-derived stem cells
The Lancet |  10 July 2004
Parkinson's cure hope
Daily Express |  9 July 2004
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