It's been sixteen years since Edinburgh scientists cloned a sheep and named it Dolly, but their sophomore effort appears even better: they've gone back to the studio and created some new brain tissue. Human brain tissue, that is.
By using stem cells from people suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, the scientists at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine were able to make brain cells to study the neurons, thus the neurological conditions.
Said director Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, "We can take a skin sample, make stem cells from it and then direct these stem cells to grow into brain cells. Essentially, we are turning a person's skin cells into brain. We are making cells that were previously inaccessible. And we could do that in future for the liver, the heart and other organs on which it is very difficult to carry out biopsies."
With the cells grown outside the body, scientists can study them in greater detail than ever before, hopefully unlocking previously unknown things about these conditions.
"We are making different types of brain cells out of skin samples from people with schizophrenia and bipolar depression," he said. "Once we have assembled these, we look at standard psychological medicines, such as lithium, to see how they affect these cells in the laboratory. After that, we can start to screen new medicines. Our lines of brain cells would become testing platforms for new drugs. We should be able to start that work in a couple of years."
Scientists also hope to work on multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and motor neuron disease.
This is yet another usage of stem cells, which are being used in myriad amazing ways. In some ways, stem cells are the most awesome (in its original meaning) thing happening in a world that is changing at a rate too rapid to describe.
We just can't wait to see what happens next.
Via The Guardian