Researchers form new nerve cells—directly in the brain

March 26, 2013

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 , 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: and – 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.

In a separate experiment on mice, where similar genes were injected into the mice's brains, the research group also succeeded in re-programming the mice's own glia cells to become nerve cells.

"The have the potential to open the way for alternatives to in the future, which would remove previous obstacles to research, such as the difficulty of getting the brain to accept foreign cells, and the risk of tumour development", said Malin Parmar.

All in all, the new technique of direct re-programming in the brain could open up new possibilities to more effectively replace dying in conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

"We are now developing the technique so that it can be used to create new that replace the function of damaged cells. Being able to carry out the re-programming in vivo makes it possible to imagine a future in which we form new cells directly in the human brain, without taking a detour via cell cultures and transplants", concluded Malin Parmar.

More information: Generation of induced neurons via direct conversion in vivo, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) Published online before print March 25, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1303829110 http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/03/21/1303829110.abstract

Related Stories

From stem cell to brain cell - new technique mimics the brain

May 24, 2012

A new technique that converts stem cells into brain cells has been developed by researchers at Lund University. The method is simpler, quicker and safer than previous research has shown and opens the doors to a shorter route ...

Stimulating brain cells with light

October 26, 2012

For the time being, this is basic research but the long term objective is to find new ways of treating Parkinson's disease. This increasingly common disease is caused by degeneration of the brain cells producing signal substance ...

Recommended for you

Surprising similarity in fly and mouse motion vision

July 29, 2015

At first glance, the eyes of mammals and those of insects do not seem to have much in common. However, a comparison of the neural circuits for detecting motion shows surprising parallels between flies and mice. Scientists ...

Research grasps how the brain plans gripping motion

July 28, 2015

With the results of a new study, neuroscientists have a firmer grasp on the way the brain formulates commands for the hand to grip an object. The advance could lead to improvements in future brain-computer interfaces that ...

New research rethinks how we grab and hold onto objects

July 28, 2015

It's been a long day. You open your fridge and grab a nice, cold beer. A pretty simple task, right? Wrong. While you're debating between an IPA and a lager, your nervous system is calculating a complex problem: how hard to ...

It don't mean a thing if the brain ain't got that swing

July 27, 2015

Like Duke Ellington's 1931 jazz standard, the human brain improvises while its rhythm section keeps up a steady beat. But when it comes to taking on intellectually challenging tasks, groups of neurons tune in to one another ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.