Neurons Generated From Human Skin Cells!
Until now, in order to convert skin cells into neurons researchers had to first convert the skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells which were then persuaded to become neurons or nerve cells of the brain.
A recent study conducted by a group of scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine has showed that human skin cells can be directly converted to nerve cells by adding a 4-protein combination. In a period of 1 month or so the skin cells converted to neurons in a laboratory dish.
In the year 2010 similar research was conducted on mice. Skin cells of mice were converted to neurons in a very short period, just a few days.
Also, it was found that nearly 20% of mice skin cells could be transformed to neurons by the addition of a 3-protein combination, Brn2, Ascl1 and Myt1l (BAM) transcription factors.
Researchers could convert human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells directly into skin cells within 6 days after treating them with BAM.
The current study also used this ‘BAM’ treatment initially. Although the skin cells taken from newborn babies and fetuses showed changes, they did not convert completely into neurons. They just ‘resembled’ neurons which were unable to produce electric signals to communicate with other neurons (typical feature of neurons).
Assuming the possibility of a missing protein, researchers then added the 4th transcription factor NeuroD to the existing ingredients. Soon after the addition of this protein, skin cells succeeded in transforming into neurons which generated electric signals and interacted with mice neurons in the laboratory.
But, it was seen that only 2% – 4% of human skin cells had the capacity of this transformation under these cultural conditions.
In the future, this approach can be used to create disease or patient specific neurons in the laboratory.