In what's being heralded as "a huge leap forward," Stanford researchers have successfully turned mouse skin cells into fully functioning brain cells. The process, which took less than a week, upends thinking on how cells develop specialized roles, and could help minimize the controversial role of embryonic stem cells in treatments for diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
"These are fully functional neurons," researcher Marius Wernig told AFP. "They can do all the principal things that neurons in the brain do." If the process can be duplicated with human cells, brain cells derived from a skin graft would be genetically identical to patient's, removing the risk of immune rejection and making them ideal for treating neurodegenerative diseases. (Read more Stanford University stories.)