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Reprogramming Adult Fibroblasts into Functional Neurons

Stuart A. Lipton, MD, Ph.D.
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
NIEHS Grant P01ES016738

A California-based research team report direct reprogramming of human fibroblasts into functional neurons. The reprogrammed cells look and act like typical neurons and represent a possible step forward in treating neurodegenerative diseases.

Previously, research teams have produced functional neurons from pluripotent stem cells; however the harvesting of pluripotent stem cells is fraught with ethical and legal issues. Somatic cells have been converted to stem cells and then differentiated into neuronal cells, but this technique is also not without issues in that some research indicates that the technique can induce the cells to become cancerous.

The NIEHS-supported team reports that a combination of a microRNA and two transcription factors is sufficient to directly reprogram human primary dermal fibroblasts into functional neurons under controlled conditions. The induced neurons exhibit morphology, form synapses, and exhibit action potentials just like typical neurons.

These findings could have major implications in disease modeling, neurodevelopment research and for cell-replacement therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Citation: Citation: Ambasudhan R, Talantova M, Coleman R, Yuan X, Zhu S, Lipton SA, Ding S. Direct reprogramming of adult human fibroblasts to functional neurons under defined conditions. Cell Stem Cell. 2011 Aug 5;9(2):113-118.

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