Skin Cells Become Brain Cells
In a feat that sounds as though it's straight out of science fiction, researchers have reprogrammed skin cells so that they develop on their own into a functional network of brain cells. The accomplishment is being hailed as ray of hope in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Currently, there are no approved medications to prevent or reverse the progression of this dreaded and eventually fatal degenerative disorder.
Right now, 5.4 million people in the United States are afflicted with the disease and that a figure is expected to nearly triple by 2050 as the population ages.
The findings were published online June 8th in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Lead author Yadong Huang, MD, PhD of the Gladstone Institutes, affiliated with the University of California,San Francisco, said, “Many drug candidates—especially those developed for neurodegenerative diseases—fail in clinical trials because current models don't accurately predict the drug's effects on the human brain. 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.”