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Saturday, February 9, 2013
Reprogramming skin cells to benefit brain cells in Multiple Sclerosis
Treating Multiple Sclerosis with Skin
February 8, 2013
Reprogrammed skin cells can be turned into brain cells that may be highly effective in treating myelin disorders like multiple sclerosis and pediatric leukodystrophies, according to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). The team says that their study is the first successful attempt to employ human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) to produce a population of cells that are critical to neural signaling in the brain. The scientists used cells crafted from human skin and transplanted them into animal models of myelin disease.
"This study strongly supports the utility of hiPSCs as a feasible and effective source of cells to treat myelin disorders," says URMC neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study. "In fact, it appears that cells derived from this source are at least as effective as those created using embryonic or tissue-specific stem cells." The team adds that the discovery opens the door to potential new treatments using hiPSC-derived cells for a range of neurological diseases characterized by myelin loss.
Oligodendrocytes are the source of myelin in the brain and spinal cord. Oligodendrocytes themselves are the offspring of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or OPCs. Scientists have theorized that if healthy OPCs could be successfully transplanted into the diseased or injured brain, then these cells might be able to produce new oligodendrocytes capable of restoring lost myelin, thereby reversing the damage caused by these diseases. However, one of the key challenges is that OPCs are a mature cell in the central nervous system and appear late in development.