Turning skin cells into brain cells

Researchers at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine have discovered a technique that directly converts skin cells to the type of brain cells destroyed in patients with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other so-called myelin disorders.

This discovery appears today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

This breakthrough now enables “on demand” production of myelinating cells, which provide a vital sheath of insulation that protects neurons and enables the delivery of brain impulses to the rest of the body. In patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy (CP), and rare genetic disorders called leukodystrophies, myelinating cells are destroyed and cannot be replaced.

The new technique involves directly converting fibroblasts – an abundant structural cell present in the skin and most organs – into oligodendrocytes, the type of cell responsible for myelinating the neurons of the brain.

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