Skin stem cells used to generate new brain cells

April 25, 2017
Credit: University of California, Irvine

Using human skin cells, University of California, Irvine neurobiologists and their colleagues have created a method to generate one of the principle cell types of the brain called microglia, which play a key role in preserving the function of neural networks and responding to injury and disease.

The finding marks an important step in the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) for targeted approaches to better understand and potentially treat neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's. These iPS cells are derived from existing adult skin cells and show increasing utility as a promising approach for studying human disease and developing new therapies.

Skin cells were donated from patients at the UCI Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. The study, led by Edsel Abud, Wayne Poon and Mathew Blurton Jones of UCI, used a genetic process to reprogram these cells into a pluripotent state capable of developing into any type of cell or tissue of the body.

The researchers then guided these to a new state by exposing the cells to a series of differentiation factors which mimicked the developmental origin of microglia. The resulting cells act very much like human microglial cells. Their study appears in the current issue of Neuron.

In the brain, microglia mediate inflammation and the removal of and debris. These cells make up 10- to 15-percent of and are needed for the development and maintenance of .

"Microglia play an important role in Alzheimer's and other diseases of the central nervous system. Recent research has revealed that newly discovered Alzheimer's-risk genes influence microglia behavior. Using these cells, we can understand the biology of these genes and test potential new therapies," said Blurton-Jones, an assistant professor of the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior and Director of the ADRC iPS Core.

"Scientists have had to rely on mouse microglia to study the immunology of AD. This discovery provides a powerful new approach to better model human disease and develop new therapies," added Poon, a UCI MIND associate researcher.

Along those lines, the researchers examined the genetic and physical interactions between Alzheimer's disease pathology and iPS-microglia. They are now using these cells in three-dimensional brain models to understand how microglia interact with other brain cells and influence AD and the development of other neurological diseases.

"Our findings provide a renewable and high-throughput method for understanding the role of inflammation in Alzheimer's disease using ," said Abud, an M.D./Ph.D. student. "These translational studies will better inform disease-modulating therapeutic strategies."

Explore further: 'Housekeepers' of the brain renew themselves more quickly than first thought

More information: Edsel M. Abud et al, iPSC-Derived Human Microglia-like Cells to Study Neurological Diseases, Neuron (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.03.042

Related Stories

'Housekeepers' of the brain renew themselves more quickly than first thought

January 10, 2017
A study, led by the University of Southampton and published in Cell Reports, shows that the turnover of the cells, called Microglia, is 10 times faster, allowing the whole population of Microglia cells to be renewed several ...

Body's immune system may play larger role in Alzheimer's disease than thought

February 23, 2016
Immune cells that normally help us fight off bacterial and viral infections may play a far greater role in Alzheimer's disease than originally thought, according to University of California, Irvine neurobiologists with the ...

Rejuvenating the brain's disposal system

December 21, 2016
A characteristic feature of Alzheimer's disease is the presence of so called amyloid plaques in the patient's brain - aggregates of misfolded proteins that clump together and damage nerve cells. Although the body has mechanisms ...

Blocking inflammation prevents cell death, improves memory in Alzheimer's disease

February 29, 2016
Using a drug compound created to treat cancer, University of California, Irvine neurobiologists have disarmed the brain's response to the distinctive beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Immune cells may protect against Alzheimer's

May 19, 2016
Clusters of immune cells in the brain previously associated with Alzheimer's actually protect against the disease by containing the spread of damaging amyloid plaques, a new Yale University School of Medicine study shows.

Brain's immune system could be harnessed to fight Alzheimer's

November 4, 2015
A new study appearing in the Journal of Neuroinflammation suggests that the brain's immune system could potentially be harnessed to help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Recommended for you

Now you like it, now you don't: Brain stimulation can change how much we enjoy and value music

November 20, 2017
Enjoyment of music is considered a subjective experience; what one person finds gratifying, another may find irritating. Music theorists have long emphasized that although musical taste is relative, our enjoyment of music, ...

MRI uncovers brain abnormalities in people with depression and anxiety

November 20, 2017
Researchers using MRI have discovered a common pattern of structural abnormalities in the brains of people with depression and social anxiety, according to a study presented being next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological ...

Deletion of a stem cell factor promotes TBI recovery in mice

November 20, 2017
UT Southwestern molecular biologists today report the unexpected finding that selectively deleting a stem cell transcription factor in adult mice promotes recovery after traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

Neuroscience research provides evidence the brain is strobing, not constant

November 17, 2017
It's not just our eyes that play tricks on us, but our ears. That's the finding of a landmark Australian-Italian collaboration that provides new evidence that oscillations, or 'strobes', are a general feature of human perception.

Brain activity buffers against worsening anxiety

November 17, 2017
Boosting activity in brain areas related to thinking and problem-solving may also buffer against worsening anxiety, suggests a new study by Duke University researchers.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

aaabez
not rated yet Apr 25, 2017
Saw the news yesterday on 'The Big Bang Theory'!

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.