New hope for Alzheimer's sufferers as breakthrough allows scientists to grow new brain cells from normal skin

Posted: June 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm

By Rob Waugh

PUBLISHED: 11:00 EST, 7 June 2012 | UPDATED: 11:01 EST, 7 June 2012

A single genetic tweak is all that is needed to turn ordinary skin cells into functioning brain cells, scientists have shown

A single genetic tweak is all that is needed to turn ordinary skin cells into functioning brain cells, scientists have shown.

The research could help to treat Alzheimers, Parkinsons and other brain diseases.

Working in the laboratory, US scientists transferred a single gene called Sox2 into both mouse and human skin cells.

Within days the cells transformed themselves into early-stage brain stem cells.

These induced neural stem cells (iNSCs) then began to self-renew and mature, eventually becoming neurons capable of transmitting electrical signals.

In less than a month the cells had developed neural networks. Transplanted into mouse brains, they functioned without any adverse side effects, such as tumour growth.

Lead researcher Dr Yadong Huang, from the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California, said: Many drug candidates, especially those developed for neurodegenerative diseases, fail in clinical trials because current models dont accurately predict the drugs effects on the human brain.

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New hope for Alzheimer's sufferers as breakthrough allows scientists to grow new brain cells from normal skin

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