Researchers Develop Innovative Technique to Generate Brain Stem Cells for Age-Related Disease Research


In a breakthrough discovery, a research team from the School of Biomedical Sciences, LKS Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong has developed a novel method to convert blood and skin cells into neural stem cells. This advancement in stem cell research offers a shortcut for generating highly personalized stem cells, providing new opportunities for studying and potentially treating age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Traditionally, generating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) involved using easily accessible sources such as skin, blood, and urine. While iPS cells can differentiate into various cell types, including those found in the brain, the process is time-consuming, costly, and associated with safety concerns. The team’s innovative approach involved transforming the gene SOX17 into a super stem cell factor, enhancing the efficiency and speed of cell transformation.

By utilizing this technique, the researchers successfully converted skin cells from mice of different ages into neural stem cells resembling brain-residing cells. They further optimized the method for human cells, demonstrating the conversion of blood cells from human donors into neural stem cells that could differentiate into cell types associated with age-related diseases like motor neuron diseases and dementia.

The team identified key features of the mutant SOX17 and developed a miniSOX variant to streamline the delivery of the engineered SOX proteins to target cells and organs. This approach aims to create a more efficient system for generating neural stem cells, with potential applications in regenerative medicine and personalized patient care.

Previous stem cell models have struggled to capture the characteristics of aging cells, limiting their utility in studying age-related diseases. This new technique preserves aging features in stem cells derived from mice, providing a more accurate model for research and potential treatments. The researchers are now focusing on studying neural cells derived from the blood cells of older humans to validate their findings.

Professor Jauch, leading the groundbreaking research, highlighted the potential of this shortcut in generating neural stem cells as a cost-effective, faster, and safer alternative. This advancement could revolutionize the understanding and treatment of diseases associated with aging, paving the way for personalized treatment strategies tailored to individual patient needs.

The team’s findings, published in Science Advances and Nucleic Acids Research, represent a significant milestone in stem cell research. By harnessing the power of stem cells, personalized treatment approaches can be developed to address a wide range of age-related diseases, ushering in a new era of regenerative medicine tailored to individual patients.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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