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Canadian scientists find new way to convert blood cells into sensory neurons

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In a revolutionary new study, conducted by a team of stem cell scientists led by Mick Bhatia from the McMaster University, Canada, has discovered how to turn adult human blood cells into brain cells, opening the doors to better understanding of every disease in the body.

According to the research, the team can now directly convert adult human blood cells into both central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) neurons as well as neurons in the peripheral nervous system that are responsible for pain, temperature and itch perception. It directly means that, now, about one million sensory neurons can be produced from a blood sample.

This lead to the conclusion that now doctors can more easily study how a person’s nervous system cells react and respond to various stimuli.

On being asked about the advantages of the new study, Bhatia, Director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, explained, “Now we can take blood samples and make the main cell types of neurological systems – the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system – in a dish that is specialized for each patient. Nobody has ever done this with adult blood. Ever.”

Bhatia and fellow scientists successfully tested their breakthrough process using both fresh as well as frozen human blood.

Bhatia said, “We can also make central nervous system cells, as the blood to neural conversion technology we developed creates neural stem cells during the process of conversion.”

As per the study, the revolutionary patented direct conversion technology has “broad and immediate applications.” It paves the way for the discovery of new pain drugs that don’t just numb the perception of pain, but actually treat it.

Scientists can actually take a patient’s blood sample, and with its help, they can produce one million sensory neurons that make up the peripheral nerves in short order with this new approach.

The study can help the researchers to think and learn about any disease and improving treatments such as: Why is it that certain people feel pain versus numbness? Is this something genetic? Can the neuropathy that diabetic patients experience be mimicked in a dish?

Bhatia, while explaining the results of the study, said that the research will help to understand the response of cells to different drugs and different stimulation responses, and will allow to provide individualized or personalized medical therapy for patients suffering with neuropathic pain.

Akbar Panju, medical director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care, said, “This bench to bedside research is very exciting and will have a major impact on the management of neurological diseases, particularly neuropathic pain.”

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Consume Low-Fat Diet To Decrease Colon Cancer Risk

High-fat diet may increase risk of developing colon cancer

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High-fat diet
A high-fat diet can lead to the development of colon cancer. Pixabay

Two genes that appear to help stem cells in the intestine burn dietary fat may play a role in colon cancer, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, described a new connection between the way cells consume fat and how genes regulate stem cell behaviour in the intestines of mice.

“This is important because scientists have shown that when there’s too much dietary fat in the intestine, stem cell numbers increase, boosting susceptibility to colon cancer,” said senior author Michael Verzi, associate professor in the Department of Genetics at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

People naturally lose millions of intestinal cells daily, much like they lose skin cells.

Dietary fat
When there’s too much dietary fat in the intestine, stem cell numbers increase. Pixabay

Intestinal stem cells undergo constant renewal and fuel the continuous turnover of the lining of the intestine, but altered stem cell functions can lead to colon cancer.

Recent studies have shown that intestinal stem cells can increase in animals on a high fat “Western” diet, potentially explaining an elevated cancer risk from such a diet.

The team recently discovered that two genes (HNF4A and HNF4G) work together to promote the proper function of the intestinal lining.

Also Read- Researchers Associate Obesity With Brain Damage

In the new study, they found that mice lost intestinal stem cells when these genes were inactivated, confirming their importance. Scientists believe that the genes help stem cells burn fat, providing them energy.

Going forward, the researchers hope to further investigate whether the two genes alter stem cell numbers and cancer risk during a high fat diet, said Verzi, who is also a member of the Rutgers Center for Lipid Research. (IANS)