Did you know scientists can make brain cells from skin cells? Yes, we can, and we do. Skin cells called fibroblast are first “reset” and then reprogrammed to become brain cells. We can make different types of brain cells from immature stem cells by using different recipes. The technology is already so advanced that scientist can even make “mini brains”! Interestingly, it takes juvenile mini brains nine months to become a mature mini-brain.
Mini brains are a huge step for testing new drugs for brain diseases. Imagine you take skin cells from a patient who has Alzheimer’s Disease, recreate the patients brain and test drugs that can stop brain cells from dying! Or, think about tumors generated this way: Now we can test drugs on these tumors and see which one kills the tumor cells but not the brain cells. No more experiments using animals, no one-treatment-fits-all medicine, just a treatment specific for the patient and his or her condition. The future for drug development looks brighter.
Here is the link to the Scripps Research Institute, home to this great achievement by Prof. Kristen Baldwin and colleagues.