Great news… these scientist figured out how to turn fibroblasts into neurons.
SAN DIEGO – Sometimes, scientific breakthroughs occur when researchers aren’t exactly looking for them. While attempting to better understand the function of a protein in connective tissue cells, UC San Diego School of Medicine scientists found a way to transform multiple types of cells into neurons. This discovery has led to the development of a treatment that eliminates symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in mice.
The protein researchers were studying, called PTB, is known for its general role in activating or deactivating genes within a cell. In an attempt to better understand how PTB contributes to cell function, researchers silenced the PTB gene using a technique called siRNA in a type of connective tissue cell, known as a fibroblast. The researchers grew the fibroblasts in petri dishes, silenced PTB, and waited a couple of weeks to check on the fibroblasts and observe any changes.
When the researchers checked the fibroblasts, they were shocked. They found that very few fibroblasts remained in the dishes. Instead, the dishes contained mostly neurons. Unintentionally, they had discovered a way to turn fibroblasts into neurons.