Chinese Scientists Produce Neurons from Urine
December 11, 2012 11:29 PM
Cells found in urine
The process could help those with neurodegenerative diseases
Researchers have found a new way of
for those with neurodegenerative conditions: taking cells from our urine.
A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, led by Duanqing Pei, have found a way to extract ordinary cells from human urine and reprogram them into functional neurons that can assist in the study and potential treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
The new method strays away from the use of embryonic stem cells, which are known to cause tumors and pose ethical dilemmas, as well as traditional techniques for obtaining stem cells such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Typically, iPSCs come from the blood, but they cannot be obtained in large quantities and they are patient-specific, meaning certain cells must come from certain patients in order to be helpful forms of treatment.
Instead, the team of Chinese scientists cells were isolated from the urine of three different patients aged 10, 25 and 37. These cells were transformed into neural progenitors, which are entry-level brain cells.
From there, the cells were grown in Petri dishes with a medium that helped the cells convert into mature neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. The process completely avoided undergoing the pluripotent stage. Also, unlike traditional methods, a virus wasn't used to deliver the genes into the cells. Instead, a small piece of bacterial DNA replicated the cytoplasm and delivered the gene without integrating it into the chromosome (which can lead to an unpredictable genetic makeup).
Even better, it only took about 12 days for the cells to resemble pluripotent stem cells, which is half the time required to produce iPSCs.
The neurons and astrocytes were placed into newborn rat brains, and after four weeks, the cells were acting like
with no tumors or mutations.
The cells can be taken from almost any patient's urine, as the process is a little less picky than iPSCs coming from blood. This makes this process a better option for wider availability of these cells.
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