Breaking News
January 21, 2019 - Plan Your Plate | NIH News in Health
January 21, 2019 - Fecal occult blood test may improve CRC outcomes in some
January 21, 2019 - Mount Sinai joins with Paradigm and ReqMed to repurpose drug for treatment of MPS
January 21, 2019 - FDA Advisory Committee Votes on Zynquista (sotagliflozin) as Treatment for Adults with Type 1 Diabetes
January 21, 2019 - The causes and complications of snoring
January 21, 2019 - Placenta adapts and compensates when pregnant mothers have poor diets or low oxygen
January 21, 2019 - New implant could restore the transmission of electrical signals in injured central nervous system
January 21, 2019 - Rapid-acting fentanyl test strips found to be effective at reducing overdose risk
January 21, 2019 - Coronary Artery Calcium May Help Predict CVD in South Asians
January 21, 2019 - The mystery of the super-ager
January 21, 2019 - Scientists develop smart microrobots that can change shape depending on their surroundings
January 21, 2019 - Keep Moving to Keep Brain Sharp in Old Age
January 21, 2019 - Despite progress, gay fathers and their children still structurally stigmatized
January 21, 2019 - New drug for treating liver parasites in vivax malaria
January 21, 2019 - Merck recognized with 2018 Life Science Industry Award for best use of social media
January 21, 2019 - Coeur Wallis equips the canton of Valais with 260 SCHILLER defibrillators
January 21, 2019 - Scientists propose quick and pain-free method for diagnosing kidney cancer
January 21, 2019 - Signs of memory loss could point to hearing issues
January 21, 2019 - HeartFlow Analysis shows highest diagnostic performance for detecting coronary artery disease
January 21, 2019 - How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
January 21, 2019 - Take a timeout before you force your child to apologize
January 21, 2019 - Scientists design two AI algorithms to improve early detection of cognitive impairment
January 21, 2019 - Novel therapy for children with chronic hormone deficiency provides lifeline for parents
January 21, 2019 - Bioethicists call for oversight of poorly regulated, consumer-grade neurotechnology products
January 21, 2019 - Study shows hereditary hemochromatosis behind many cancers and joint diseases
January 21, 2019 - Short bouts of stairclimbing throughout the day can improve cardiovascular health
January 20, 2019 - Liver Transplant Survival May Improve With Race Matching
January 20, 2019 - Study implicates hyperactive immune system in aging brain disorders
January 20, 2019 - Cancer Diagnosis May Quadruple Suicide Risk
January 20, 2019 - Parkinson’s disease experts devise a roadmap
January 20, 2019 - Research brings new hope to treating degenerative brain diseases
January 20, 2019 - Scientists pinpoint a set of molecules that wire the body weight center of the brain
January 20, 2019 - Researchers get close to developing elusive blood test for Alzheimer’s disease
January 20, 2019 - UCLA researchers demonstrate new technique to develop cancer-fighting T cells
January 20, 2019 - Researchers discover how cancer cells avoid genetic meltdown
January 20, 2019 - Exercise makes even the ‘still overweight’ healthier: study
January 20, 2019 - University of Utah to establish first-of-its-kind dark sky studies minor in the US
January 20, 2019 - School-based nutritional programs reduce student obesity
January 20, 2019 - Improved maternity care practices in the southern U.S. reduce racial inequities in breastfeeding
January 20, 2019 - New enzyme biomarker test indicates diseases and bacterial contamination
January 20, 2019 - Republican and Democratic governors have different visions to transform health care, say researchers
January 20, 2019 - Researchers discover that spin flips happen in only half a picosecond in the course of a chemical reaction
January 20, 2019 - Suicide Risk Up More Than Fourfold for Cancer Patients
January 20, 2019 - Doctors find 122 nails in Ethiopian’s stomach
January 20, 2019 - UV disinfection technology eliminates up to 97.7% of pathogens in operating rooms
January 20, 2019 - Researchers discover mechanism which drives leukemia cell growth
January 20, 2019 - AHA: Infection as a Baby Led to Heart Valve Surgery for Teen
January 20, 2019 - Injection improves vision in a form of childhood blindness
January 20, 2019 - Multiple sclerosis therapies delay progression of disability
January 20, 2019 - New study finds infrequent helmet use among bike share riders
January 20, 2019 - Clearing up information about corneal dystrophies
January 20, 2019 - Researchers describe new behavior in energy metabolism that refutes existing evidence
January 20, 2019 - New study takes first step toward treating endometriosis
January 20, 2019 - Researchers find how GREB1 gene promotes resistance to prostate cancer treatments
January 20, 2019 - Replacing Sitting Time With Activity Lowers Mortality Risk
January 20, 2019 - A simple, inexpensive intervention makes birth safer for moms and babies in parts of Africa
January 19, 2019 - New anti-inflammatory compound acts as ‘surge protector’ to reduce cancer growth
January 19, 2019 - Significant flaws found in recently released forensic software
January 19, 2019 - New Leash on Life? Staying Slim Keeps Pooches Happy, Healthy
January 19, 2019 - Men and women remember pain differently
January 19, 2019 - Rising air pollution linked with increased ER visits for breathing problems
January 19, 2019 - Study uses local data to model food consumption patterns among Seattle residents
January 19, 2019 - The brain’s cerebellum plays role in controlling reward and social behaviors, study shows
January 19, 2019 - Relationship between nurse work environment and patient safety
January 19, 2019 - Pioneering surgery restores movement to children paralyzed by acute flaccid myelitis
January 19, 2019 - Genetic variants linked with risk tolerance and risky behaviors
January 19, 2019 - New research provides better understanding of our early human ancestors
January 19, 2019 - First-ever tailored reporting guidance to improve patient care and outcomes
January 19, 2019 - 4.6 percent of Massachusetts residents have opioid use disorder
January 19, 2019 - New study suggests vital exhaustion as risk factor for dementia
January 19, 2019 - New antibiotic discovery heralds breakthrough in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria
January 19, 2019 - Ural Federal University scientists synthesize a group of multi-purpose fluorophores
January 19, 2019 - Researchers identify new therapeutic target in the fight against chronic liver diseases
January 19, 2019 - Preparation, characterization of Soyasapogenol B loaded onto functionalized MWCNTs
January 19, 2019 - FDA Approves Ontruzant (trastuzumab-dttb), a Biosimilar to Herceptin
January 19, 2019 - Tobacco use linked with higher use of opioids and sedatives
January 19, 2019 - Study delves deeper into developmental dyslexia
January 19, 2019 - Anti-vaccination movement one of the top health threats in 2019 says WHO
January 19, 2019 - Newly developed risk score more effective at identifying type 1 diabetes
January 19, 2019 - Highly effective protocol to prepare cannabis samples for THC/CBD analysis
Human blood cells transformed into functional neurons | News Center

Human blood cells transformed into functional neurons | News Center

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Human immune cells in blood can be converted directly into functional neurons in the laboratory in about three weeks with the addition of just four proteins, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found.

The dramatic transformation does not require the cells to first enter a state called pluripotency but instead occurs through a more direct process called transdifferentiation.

The conversion occurs with relatively high efficiency — generating as many as 50,000 neurons from 1 milliliter of blood — and it can be achieved with fresh or previously frozen and stored blood samples, which vastly enhances opportunities for the study of neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

“Blood is one of the easiest biological samples to obtain,” said Marius Wernig, MD, associate professor of pathology and a member of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. “Nearly every patient who walks into a hospital leaves a blood sample, and often these samples are frozen and stored for future study. This technique is a breakthrough that opens the possibility to learn about complex disease processes by studying large numbers of patients.”

A paper describing the findings was published online June 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wernig is the senior author. Former postdoctoral scholar Koji Tanabe, PhD, and graduate student Cheen Ang are the lead authors.

Dogged by challenges

The transdifferentiation technique was first developed in Wernig’s laboratory in 2010 when he and his colleagues showed that they could convert mouse skin cells into mouse neurons without first inducing the cells to become pluripotent — a developmentally flexible stage from which the cells can become nearly any type of tissue. They went on to show the technique could also be used on human skin and liver cells.

It’s kind of shocking how simple it is to convert T cells into functional neurons in just a few days.

But each approach has been dogged by challenges, particularly for researchers wishing to study genetically complex mental disorders, such as autism or schizophrenia, for which many hundreds of individual, patient-specific samples are needed in order to suss out the relative contributions of dozens or more disease-associated mutations.

“Generating induced pluripotent stem cells from large numbers of patients is expensive and laborious. Moreover, obtaining skin cells involves an invasive and painful procedure,” Wernig said. “The prospect of generating iPS cells from hundreds of patients is daunting and would require automation of the complex reprogramming process.”

Although it’s possible to directly convert skin cells to neurons, the biopsied skin cells first have to be grown in the laboratory for a period of time until their numbers increase — a process likely to introduce genetic mutations not found in the person from whom the cells were obtained.

The researchers wondered if there was an easier, more efficient way to generate patient-specific neurons.

‘Somewhat mind-boggling’

In the new study, Wernig and his colleague focused on highly specialized immune cells called T cells that circulate in the blood. T cells protect us from disease by recognizing and killing infected or cancerous cells. In contrast, neurons are long and skinny cells capable of conducting electrical impulses along their length and passing them from cell to cell. But despite the cells’ vastly different shapes, locations and biological missions, the researchers found it unexpectedly easy to complete their quest.  

“It’s kind of shocking how simple it is to convert T cells into functional neurons in just a few days,” Wernig said. “T cells are very specialized immune cells with a simple round shape, so the rapid transformation is somewhat mind-boggling.”

The resulting human neurons aren’t perfect. They lack the ability to form mature synapses, or connections, with one another. But they are able to carry out the main fundamental functions of neurons, and Wernig and his colleague are hopeful they will be able to further optimize the technique in the future. In the meantime, they’ve started to collect blood samples from children with autism.

“We now have a way to directly study the neuronal function of, in principle, hundreds of people with schizophrenia and autism,” Wernig said. “For decades we’ve had very few clues about the origins of these disorders or how to treat them. Now we can start to answer so many questions.”

Other Stanford co-authors are postdoctoral scholars Soham Chanda, PhD, and Daniel Haag, PhD; undergraduate student Victor Olmos; professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Douglas Levinson, MD; and professor of molecular and cellular physiology Thomas Südhof, MD.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants MH092931 and MH104172), the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the New York Stem Cell Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Siebel Foundation and the Stanford Schizophrenia Genetics Research Fund.

Stanford’s Department of Pathology also supported the work.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles