Brain Cells Made from Urine
2012-12-19 0:00

By Monya Baker | ScientificAmerican.com

Human excreta could be a powerful source of cells to study disease, bypassing some of the problems of using stem cells, such as the risk of developing tumors and difficulties in obtaining blood samples from children.

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons.


Getting neurons from cells discarded in urine, may one day help develop therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.
The technique, described online in a study in Nature Methods this week, does not involve embryonic stem cells. These come with serious drawbacks when transplanted, such as the risk of developing tumors. Instead, the method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms them into neural progenitor cells — the precursors of brain cells. These precursor cells could help researchers to produce cells tailored to individuals more quickly and from more patients than current methods.

Researchers routinely reprogram cultured skin and blood cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can go on to form any cell in the body. But urine is a much more accessible source.

Stem-cell biologist Duanqing Pei and his colleagues at China’s Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, had previously shown that kidney epithelial cells in urine could be reprogrammed into iPS cells.

However, in that study the team used retroviruses to insert pluripotency genes into cells — a common technique in cell reprogramming. This alters the genetic make-up of cells and can make them less predictable, so in this study, Pei and his colleagues introduced the genes using vectors which did not integrate in the cellular genome.

One of their experiments produced round colonies of reprogrammed cells from urine that resembled pluripotent stem cells after only 12 days — about half the time usually required to produce iPS cells. When cultured further, the colonies took on the rosette shape common to neural stem cells.

Tumor-free

Pei and his colleagues transferred the cells to a growth medium used for neurons, and found that these reprogrammed cells went on to form functional neurons in the lab.

When the team repeated the experiment and transplanted the cells into newborn rat brains, the cells did not form tumors. Instead, when the brains were examined four weeks later, the cells had taken on the shape and molecular markers of neurons.

[...]


Read the full article at: scientificamerican.com







Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

The Truth About Starbucks New Coconut Milk: It Isn’t Really Coconut Milk
2015-03-03 22:14
In an attempt to appeal to the non-dairy crowd, Starbucks is bringing “coconut milk” to the masses. After a successful trial run in select cities at the behest of their customers, Starbucks has decided to push forward with their dairy alternative. Providing a non-dairy alternative to dairy and soy is the second most requested customer idea of all time from MyStarbucksIdea.com, ...
USDA on board with shipping U.S. chickens to China for processing, then re-entry to States for human consumption
2015-03-03 21:32
“Chinese chicken” will soon have a whole new meaning, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently gave the green-light to four chicken processing plants in China, allowing chicken raised and slaughtered in the U.S. to be exported to China for processing, and then shipped back to the U.S. and sold on grocery shelves here. Furthermore, the imported processed ...
Feinstein: Netanyahu does not speak for all Jews
2015-03-03 21:52
US Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “arrogant” man who does not speak for all Jews. The Jewish lawmaker made the remarks in an interview with CNN on Sunday ahead of Netanyahu's controversial visit to the United States. The Israeli premier arrived in Washington, DC, on Sunday night ...
Netanyahu to US: Don’t negotiate ‘bad deal’ with Iran
2015-03-03 21:12
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the United States not to negotiate “a very bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear energy program. Speaking at a joint session of the US Congress in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “We’ve been told for over a year that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well this is a ...
School Textbook: “There’s No Such Thing as Reverse Racism” Only White People can be Racist
2015-03-03 2:14
Only white people can be racist. A school textbook teaches students that “there is no such thing as reverse racism” and that women can never be as sexist as men. The passage, which appears to be taken from a “multicultural education series” book entitled Is Everyone Equal, states, “STOP: There is no such thing as reverse racism or reverse sexism (or the ...
More News »