Wednesday August 15, 2018

Stem cells used for crucial brain chemical

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New York: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have used stem cells to create a specialised nerve cell that makes serotonin, a signalling chemical with a broad role in the brain.

Serotonin affects emotions, sleep, anxiety, depression, appetite, pulse and breathing. It also plays a role in serious psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

“Serotonin essentially modulates every aspect of brain function, including movement,” said one of the researchers Su-Chun Zhang said.

A small number of neurons localised on one structure at the back of the brain are responsible for making this chemical.

Serotonin exerts its influence because the neurons that make it project to almost every part of the brain, the researchers said.

The study began with two types of stem cells: one derived from embryos, the other from adult cells.

As serotonin neurons form before birth, the researchers had to recreate the chemical environment found in the developing brain in the uterus, Zhang said.

Because the neurons can be generated from induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be produced from a patient’s skin cells, “these could be useful for finding treatments for psychiatric disorders like depression, where we often see quite variable responses to drugs,” study first author Jianfeng Lu said.

“By identifying individual differences, this could be a step toward personalised medicine,” Lu noted.

The findings were reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology. (IANS), (image courtesy: stemology.co.uk)

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Research: Japan Scientists to Use ‘Reprogrammed’ Stem Cells to Fight Parkinson’s

The fact that the clinical trial uses iPS cells rather than human embryonic cells means the treatment would be acceptable in countries such as Ireland and much of Latin America, where embryonic cells are banned

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Japan scientists
Jun Takahashi, left, professor at Kyoto University's Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application, attends a news conference in Kyoto, Japan, July 30, 2018. (VOA)

Japanese scientists said Monday they will start clinical trials next month on a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, transplanting “reprogrammed” stem cells into brains, seeking a breakthrough in treating the neurodegenerative disorder.

Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, and researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical.

The clinical trials come after researchers at Japan’s Kyoto University successfully used human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys last year.

So-called iPS cells are made by removing mature cells from an individual — often from the skin or blood — and reprogramming them to behave like embryonic stem cells. They can then be coaxed into dopamine-producing brain cells.

Parkinsons
Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells. (IANS)

“This will be the world’s first clinical trial using iPS cells on Parkinson’s disease,” Jun Takahashi, professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application, told a news conference.

The center is headed by Shinya Yamanaka, who in 2012 shared a Nobel Prize for medicine with a British scientist, John Gurdon, for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like cells.

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“We intend to carry on conducting our research carefully, yet expeditiously, in coordination with Kyoto University Hospital, so that new treatment using iPS cells will be brought to patients as soon as possible,” Yamanaka said in a statement.

The fact that the clinical trial uses iPS cells rather than human embryonic cells means the treatment would be acceptable in countries such as Ireland and much of Latin America, where embryonic cells are banned. (VOA)