New method for producing neurons
[NEWS 2011-06-03] Two research groups at Karolinska Institutet present in Cell Stem Cell a new, effective method for producing certain types of neurons of relevance to neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. The same teams have already shown how dopamine-producing cells lost during the course of Parkinson's disease can be produced, and now hope that this new knowledge will make it easier to test new drugs in neural cultures.
Scientists working in regenerative medicine hope to one day be able to replace or repair cells that have been damaged or lost through disease, such as type I diabetes or Parkinson's. But for this to be achieved, effective methods are needed to steer stem cells into forming the kinds of cell that need replacing or repairing in the patients. A particularly demanding challenge is to produce different kinds of neuron since there are hundreds of nerve cell types in the brain, and out of those it is the clinically relevant ones that have to be made.
In this joint study, scientists from groups led by professors Thomas Perlmann and Johan Ericson at Karolinska Institutet have used knowledge of how different kinds of neuron are formed in the foetus to develop a highly effective method of steering stem cells to form different kinds of clinically critical neuronal types - a process that they have already shown possible with the dopamine-producing neurons that are lost in Parkinson's disease.
To achieve this, the group systematically used what are known as transcription factors (proteins that control genetic activity) to induce other types of neuron of relevance for other neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. The efficacy of the method has made it possible to produce relatively pure neural cultures, which cannot practicably be done by dissecting cells from nerve tissue. The method opens new opportunities to use nerve cells more effectively in cultures as models of disease or for testing drug candidates.
Transcription Factor-Induced Lineage Selection of Stem-Cell-Derived Neural Progenitor Cells
Cell Stem Cell, Volume 8, Issue 6, online 2 June 2011