Skin Cells Reprogrammed into Aged Neuron to Aid Research into Age-Related Brain Disorders

A team of scientists from Lund University in Sweden has developed a new system that could make research into neurodegenerative disorders less difficult than it has been to date.Neurogenesis

These researchers honed in on Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that is hard to understand, in their study. They succeeded in studying this condition by reprogramming human skin cells into old neurons.

The team’s findings were released recently in the journal Brain.

A major obstacle to research

One key hurdle that scientists often face in experimental research has to do with modeling diseases or mechanisms that are specific to them. Researchers will achieve a lot more in their studies and come up with more potent treatments if they can overcome this challenge.

Huntington’s disease is an example of the disorders that scientists have found quite difficult to model. Not a lot is known about the mechanisms underlying this disease. This is partly the result of the complexity involved in recreating suitable cellular or animal models, researchers said.

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Huntington’s disease is a deadly disorder. There is still no treatment or cure for it. This is despite the gene responsible for it having been identified decades ago.

The Lund University team believed their new method could enhance the success of studies on Huntington’s disease and several other neurodegenerative disorders.

Reprogrammed skin cells

In this study led by Johan Jakobsson, a professor of neuroscience at Lund University, researchers obtained skin biopsies from people living with Huntington’s disease. They then reprogrammed the skin cells into neurons for comparison against reprogrammed neurons from people who didn’t have the disorder.

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The research team observed several flaws in neurons from Huntington’s disease patients. These could make clear some underlying mechanisms of the disorder.

“Among other things, we observed that neurons from patients with Huntington’s disease show problems in breaking down and recycling a particular kind of protein – which can lead to a lack of energy in these cells,” Jakobsson said.

The scientists went further to measure the biological age of the neurons created from skin cells. They found that the neurons maintained their real biological age. This means that the reprogrammed neurons were old and this makes the new method suitable for the study of multiple age-related brain disorders, explained Jakobsson.

The neuroscience professor believed their model will help more in understanding Huntington’s disease, compared to results from animal studies. This could aid researchers in discovering effective treatments.

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Distinct subcellular autophagy impairments in induced neurons from patients with Huntington’s disease



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