Scientists have described a way to convert human skin cells directly into a specific type of brain cell affected by Huntington’s disease, an ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disorder.
Unlike other techniques that turn one cell type into another, this new process does not pass through a stem cell phase, avoiding the production of multiple cell types, the study’s authors report.
The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, demonstrated that these converted cells survived at least six months after injection into the brains of mice and behaved similarly to native cells in the brain.
“Not only did these transplanted cells survive in the mouse brain, they showed functional properties similar to those of native cells,” said senior author Andrew S. Yoo, PhD, assistant professor of developmental biology. “These cells are known to extend projections into certain brain regions. And we found the human transplanted cells also connected to these distant targets in the mouse brain. That’s a landmark point about this paper.”
The work appears Oct. 22 in the journal Neuron.