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Neurons from Skin

July 14, 2011

Two teams of scientists have converted skin cells directly into neurons.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Flipping cells’ identities…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For years, scientists have been developing ways to make human cells to order – for example, to create healthy neurons for patients with Parkinson’s disease. So far, that’s involved either harvesting stem cells, which can mature into any cell type, or reprogramming other kinds of cells into an embryonic form. Now, two teams of scientists have turned human skin cells directly into neurons. One was led by neurobiologist Malin Parmar of Lund University in Sweden. They did it by activating just three genes inside the skin cell.

MALIN PARMAR (Lund University, Sweden):

We take one mature cell type and convert it into another mature cell type. And we think this might be a safer source of cells to use in the clinic.

HIRSHON:

Safer because embryonic cells can generate tumors. Parmar expects that other cells besides skin could be changed in a similar way. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.