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New Old Neurons

October 13, 2015

Scientists are developing new strategies for making old neurons to study diseases of aging.


BOB HIRSHON (host):Creating old neurons. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

To study various diseases in the lab, scientists reprogram skin cells, which are easy to come by, into stem cells, which can then be transformed into any type of cell, from heart cells to neurons. But unfortunately for scientists studying aging, the first step erases the cell’s age, restoring its properties to that of a young cell, says Salk Institute neuroscientist Fred Gage.

FRED GAGE (Salk Institute):

Even if you’re getting skin fibroblasts from an 89-year-old or a one-year old they’re both reverted back to a common, very immature state.


Waiting decades for the cells to get old again isn’t an option, so, in the journal Cell Stem Cell, Gage reveals a new technique that converts skin cells directly into neurons, without erasing their age. It promises to make studying diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s much easier. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.