Science and Technology
publicado em 01/08/2011 às 20h00:00
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Innovative technique takes a few days to turn skin cells into neurons

This important discovery may produce advances in regenerative medicine and the development of personalized drugs

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Foto: Gladstone Institutes
Shinya Yamanaka, investigador sênior do estudo
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Shinya Yamanaka, investigador sênior do estudo

A scientist at the Gladstone Institutes discovered a new way to convert human skin cells into brain cells, advancing medicine and human health and providing new hope for regenerative medicine and the development of personalized drugs.

Pharmaceutical chemistry professor Sheng Ding reveals efficient methods to transform adult skin cells into neurons that are capable of transmitting brain signals, marking one of the first documented experiments to perform this procedure.

"This could bring significant contributions to patients and families suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington. Ding's latest research offers new hope to the process of drug development for these diseases, as well as the possibility of therapy replacement cells to reduce the trauma of millions of people affected by these devastating diseases and irreversible, "said Lennart Mucke.

The team's work Ding is based on studies of another reprogramming cell Gladstone scientist Shinya Yamanaka. Yamanaka's discovery in 2006 of a technique to turn adult skin cells into cells that act like embryonic stem cells radically advanced the fields of cell biology and stem cells.

The pluripotent cells that can develop into any cell type in the human body, hold great promise for regenerative medicine in which damaged tissues and organs can be replaced or repaired. Many in the scientific community considers the use of these cells as the key to future treatment and eradication of a number of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. But the issue is controversial, one of the reasons why the discovery of Yamanaka to get these cells without using embryos is so important.

Ding's work extends Yamanaka as it provides another method to avoid the use of embryonic stem cells, and create an entirely new platform for fundamental studies of human disease. Instead of using models of yeast, flies or mice to research the disease, all the technology that allows cell reprogramming the human brain, heart and other cells are created from skin cells of patients with a specific disease.

The new cells created from skin cells contain a complete set of genes that lead to certain disease, representing the potential for a far superior model for studying human diseases, medications and other treatments. In the future, these reprogrammed skin cells could be used to test the safety and efficacy of drugs for a specific patient, for example, Alzheimer's disease.

"This technology will allow us to obtain a model of neurodegenerative diseases very quickly on a slide, producing nerve cells from individual patients in just a matter of days rather than months, as before," said Lipton.

In these experiments, Ding used two genes and one microRNA to convert a skin sample of a woman of 55 years directly to brain cells. The cells created by the experiments of Ding changed the electrical impulses needed for brain cells communicate things like thoughts and emotions. Using microRNAs to reprogram cells is a more secure and efficient than using the more common approach of genetic modification. In the following experiments, Ding expected to depend solely on microRNAs and pharmaceutical compounds to convert skin cells into brain cells, leading to more efficient production of cells for regenerative purposes tests.

"This will help us avoid any modification of the genome. These cells are not yet ready to be transplanted. But this work removes some of the major technical obstacles to the use of reprogrammed cells to create cells suitable for transplantation for a number of diseases," Ding said.

   Palavras-chave:   Neurons    Stem cells    Pluripotent cells    Embryonic cells    Skin    Neurodegenerative diseases    McroRNA    Research    Gladstone Institutes   
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