The addition of two particular gene snippets to a skin cell’s usual genetic material is enough to turn that cell into a fully functional neuron, report researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding, published online July 13 in Nature, is one of just a few recent reports of ways to create human neurons in a lab dish.
The new capability to essentially grow neurons from scratch is a big step for neuroscience research, which has been stymied by the lack of human neurons for study. Unlike skin cells or blood cells, neurons are not something that’s easy
Much to the dismay of patients and physicians, cancer stem cells — tiny powerhouses that generate and maintain tumor growth in many types of cancers — are relatively resistant to the ionizing radiation often used as therapy for these conditions. Part of the reason, say researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, is the presence of a protective pathway meant to shield normal stem cells from DNA damage. When the researchers blocked this pathway, the cells became more susceptible to radiation.
“Our ultimate goal is to come up with a therapy that knocks out the cancer stem cells,” said Robert
Investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a way to monitor neural stem cells after they’ve been transplanted into the brain.
The scientists were able to determine not only whether the stem cells transplanted into living animals survived but whether they matured into nerve cells, integrated into targeted brain circuits and, most important, were firing on cue and igniting activity in downstream nerve circuits.
When most groups of mammalian cells are faced with a shortage of nutrients or oxygen, the phrase “every man for himself” is more apt than “all for one, one for all.” Unlike colonies of bacteria, which often cooperate to thrive as a group, mammalian cells have never been observed to help one another out. But a new study led by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine has shown that certain human embryonic stem cells, in times of stress, produce molecules that not only benefit themselves, but also help nearby cells survive.
“Altruism has been reported among bacterial
Mouse skin cells can be converted directly into cells that become the three main parts of the nervous system, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding is an extension of a previous study by the same group showing that mouse and human skin cells can be directly converted into functional neurons.
The multiple successes of the direct conversion method could refute the idea that pluripotency (a term that describes the ability of stem cells to become nearly any cell in the body) is necessary for a cell to transform from one cell type to another.