Salk scientists developed a new technique to grow
aged brain cells from patients’ skin. Fibroblasts
(cells in connective tissue) from elderly human donors
are directly converted into induced neurons, shown.
Image: Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
(October 8, 2015) The new technique allows scientists to study diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's using cells from human patients
For the first time, scientists can use skin samples from older patients to create brain cells without rolling back the youthfulness clock in the cells first. The new technique, which yields cells resembling those found in older people’s brains, will be a boon to scientists studying age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“This lets us keep age-related signatures in the cells so that we can more easily study the effects of aging on the brain,” says Rusty Gage, a professor in the Salk Institute’s Laboratory of Genetics and senior author of the paper, published October 8, 2015 in Cell Stem Cell.
“By using this powerful approach, we can begin to answer many questions about the physiology and molecular machinery of human nerve cells–not just around healthy aging but pathological aging as well,” says Martin Hetzer, a Salk professor also involved in the work.