Scientists Make Neurons From Skin

New process promises major breakthroughs in neurobiology
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2011 2:57 AM CDT
The skin cells switched into neurons when two segments of RNA were added.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A key scientific breakthrough will help researchers get around one of the major obstacles to testing conditions like Alzheimer's: a lack of brain donors. The team has found an efficient way to turn skin cells into neurons by adding a few short strands of genetic material, the Independent reports. "A major problem in neurobiology has been the lack of a good human model. Neurons aren't like blood," the lead researcher says. "They're not something people want to give up." The discovery also means patients may one day be treated with nerve cells created from their own skin.

Scientists have turned skin cells into brain cells before, but they had to be turned into stem cells first via a convoluted and inefficient process. With the new process, researchers believe it will be much easier to generate different kinds of cells for use in the study of brain diseases and treatments, as well as for use as possible treatments themselves.

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