Possibility of generating nerve cells from an individual’s own skin cells

Results of an experimental study in this week’s issue of THE LANCET highlight how adult skin cells can be made into precursor nerve cells, with potential implications for the future treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Ethical and practical considerations limit the availability of neural stem cells derived from human embryonic tissue. A readily available source of human neural stem cells is therefore needed. Siddharthan Chandran (University of Cambridge, UK) and colleagues used skin cells from adults to generate nerve precursor cells. They did this by a two step process involving soluble agents called growth factors which generated almost limitless numbers of stem cells which could then be made into nerve cells.

Dr Chandran comments: “This study provides a platform for further experimental studies and raises the possibility of generating nerve cells from an individual’s own skin cells, thus overcoming issues of rejection of transplanted nerve cells from other donors.”

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