Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Skin cells transformed into Brain cells

The magic here is that it didn't happen in a few processes, the Skin cells were transformed directly into Brain cells!

The skin cell, also known as an Epidermal cell is the outer layer of an organism. It's a cell which the body can keep reproducing as we all know, but it's potential is high!

Epidermal cells and brain cells have the same DNA, but the way it's interpreted gives it different functions.

Neural Precursor cells are sort of like stem cells, they can differentiate into 3 other kinds:

  • Neurons
  • Astrocytes
  • Oligodrendocytes
Neurons - The nerve cell, it allows impulses to be sent and is responsible for every action in your body.
Astrocytes - These are the ones which supply nutrients to nervous tissue. (..not tissue which is nervous).
Oligodrendocytes - These insulate the impulses sent over long distances.

So what?
  • The Epidermal cells were injected with a virus containing high factors relative to precursor cells. (To make that easier, think of it like you want a cat to be a dog, so you inject some cat properties into the dog).
  • After around 3 weeks, 1 in 10 of these infected cells turned into a precursor cell. [the sort of stem cell thing I was talking about before. (yeah, it's cool right?)]
  • Even better, the precursor cells undergo Mitosis rapidly! 
So you're either now thinking
This mouse isn't happy that his family is bred for experiments :(

  • Whoa that's awesome!
  • or great, what good is that?
Well actually, scientists did some testing on rats, (It's always the rats..) and basically, they got some rats which were missing a part of their brain which controls the nervous system, retrieved some of their skin cells, turned them into brain cells and got the missing part growing, back up and running!

Now if this can be done in humans, it will be a breakthrough in medicine.

The big BUT..

But there are a few problems
  • Using your own skin cells for this results in triggering the cancer gene, and we all know that's not good.
  • We could use stem cells, but then we might as well use them for creating new cells in the first place.
  • If not your own, then who's cells? That raises a big ethical question to where we should get them from.
At the end of the day

Huge discovery, and many potential treatments for diseases such as motor neuron disease, stroke and more.

Anyone fancy trading skin for a brain?

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