Direct conversion of human fibroblasts to neurons

Pfisterer et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jun 6. [Epub ahead of print]

In this study investigators converted fibroblasts, a cell found in the skin, into functional neurons by the overexpression of three transcription factors (Ascl1, Brn2, and Myt1l). Transcription factors are the messages the cell uses to turn certain genetic programs on or off; in this case the program to make a cell become a neuron. When the expression of the three conversion factors was combined with the expression of two genes involved in dopamine neuron generation (Lmx1a and FoxA2) they converted the cells into dopaminergic neurons (the cells that are lacking in Parkinson’s disease). They concluded that subtype-specific induction of neurons from human skin cells could be potentially valuable for cell replacement therapy in Parkinson’s disease and by analogy MS.

“Exciting stuff; if the technology wheel keeps turning we will have the material to test neuronal sub-type specific therapeutic strategies in PwMS.”

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