Oh, the wonders of science!
Researchers have successfully managed to convert skin cells directly into cells which develop into the main components of the brain via studying mice. An experiment which is being described as “thrilling” due to it’s potential medical uses on humans in the future. Scientists actually used a virus to infect skin cells with three transcription factors known to be at high levels in “neural precursor cells” – 1 in 10 of these cells actually do become “neural precursor cells” after 3 weeks.
One of the most exciting things about this experiment is that it does not involve any use of stem cells nor does it require the ‘stem cell process’ – it completely bypasses it!
Stem cells are cells that have not yet “decided” what they will eventually become. They are almost the building blocks of human life (if you exclude chromosomes) and if scientists ever manage to figure out how to make a stem cell exactly what you want it (e.g. a red blood cell), then it would alter human life dramatically (mainly improve it) – most likely because many medical conditions could be eradicated, such as blindness.
Lead researcher Prof Marius Wernig commented on the outcome of the study:
“We are thrilled about the prospects for potential medical use of these cells. We’ve shown the cells can integrate into a mouse brain and produce a missing protein important for the conduction of electrical signal by the neurons. More work needs to be done to generate similar cells from human skin cells and assess their safety and efficacy.”
Currently, more testing is required before they can be experimented on human skin cells.
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