New Publication in Stem Cell Reports: Fast and Efficient Neural Conversion of Human Hematopoietic Cells
Dr. Alessandra Giorgetti, an associate researcher in the Stem Cells, Mesenchymal Cancer and Development group, led by Dr. Pablo Menéndez, has published a paper in the journal Stem Cell Reports this month.
The work describes a new way to generate neurons from blood stem cells (these cells give rise to all different types of cells in the blood). Neurons are specialist cells of the nervous system that transmit messages through electrical and chemical signals. The group is interested in generating populations of cells this way in order to use them to study the mechanisms of normal cell development, but also to see what goes wrong when cells turn leukaemic. Cells made this way, in the laboratory are also a safer and quicker way to test possible drugs and treatments in the first phases to check safety and see if they work.
In this paper the scientists describe a new method, which is much quicker and more efficient than those previously used to generate neurons in the laboratory. They use a sophisticated technique to introduce genes into the blood cells; these genes send signals that drive the conversion of blood cells into neurons. Most importantly these cells are capable of sending electrical signals in the same way that normal neurons do making them a good model that reproduces some of the characteristics of the nervous system in humans.
The cells will provide a valuable resource and a tool to test possible therapies for toxicity and efficacy of new drugs. These studies are essential before a possible treatment can be tried on patients, or even on mice.