The field of cell therapy, which aims to form new cells in the body in order to cure disease, has taken another important step in the development towards new treatments. A new report from researchers at Lund University in Sweden shows that it is possible to re-programme other cells to become nerve cells, directly in the brain.
Two years ago, researchers in Lund were the first in the world to re-programme human skin cells, known as fibroblasts, to dopamine-producing nerve cells – without taking a detour via the stem cell stage. The research group has now gone a step further and shown that it is possible to re-programme both skin cells and support cells directly to nerve cells, in place in the brain.
“The findings are the first important evidence that it is possible to re-programme other cells to become nerve cells inside the brain”, said Malin Parmar, research group leader and Reader in Neurobiology.
The researchers used genes designed to be activated or de-activated using a drug. The genes were inserted into two types of human cells: fibroblasts and glia cells – support cells that are naturally present in the brain.Once the researchers had transplanted the cells into the brains of rats, the genes were activated using a drug in the animals’ drinking water. The cells then began their transformation into nerve cells.
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