A team of scientists has discovered what could be a novel source for researching and potentially treating Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions involving the destruction of brain cells.
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes converted skin cells from mice and humans into brain stem cells with the use of a protein called Sox2. Using only this protein to transform the skin cells into neuron stem cells is unusual. Normally, the conversion process is much more complex.
Led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, scientists have, for the first time, created stem cell-derived, in vitro models of sporadic and hereditary Alzheimer’s disease, using induced pluripotent stem cells from patients with the much-dreaded neurodegenerative disorder.
“Creating highly purified and functional human Alzheimer’s neurons in a dish – this has never been done before,” said senior study author Lawrence Goldstein, PhD, professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program. “It’s a first step. These aren’t perfect models.
Scientists at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes have for the first time transformed skin cells — with a single genetic factor — into cells that develop on their own into an interconnected, functional network of brain cells.
The research offers new hope in the fight against many neurological conditions because scientists expect that such a transformation — or reprogramming — of cells may lead to better models for testing drugs for devastating neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
This research comes at a time of renewed focus on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently afflicts 5.4 million people in the United States alone —
Tweaking the levels of factors used during the reprogramming of adult cells into induced pluriopotent stem (iPS) cells greatly affects the quality of the resulting iPS cells, according to Whitehead Institute researchers.
“This conclusion is something that I think is very surprising or unexpected—that the levels of these reprogramming factors determine the quality of the iPS cells,” says Whitehead Founding Member Rudolf Jaenisch. “We never thought they’d make a difference, but they do.”
An article describing this work is published in the December 2 issue of Cell Stem Cell.
“This conclusion is something that I think is very surprising or unexpected—that the
Unlocking knowledge about how organisms develop and repair, stem cell research holds great promise for future therapies for injuries and conditions, from infertility and Alzheimer’s to heart failure and cancer. As part of its mission to promote cross-campus interactions and enhance training in stem cell biology at Cornell, the Cornell Stem Cell Program (CSCP) held its second Stem Cell Retreat May 17 on campus.
About 85 members of the Cornell stem cell research community attended the event, which featured keynote speaker Dr. Lawrence Goldstein, director of the Stem Cell Program at University of California, San Diego, and the Howard Hughes