A research team at UC-San Diego anounced yesterday that they have invented a shortcut for turning skin cells into brain cells, a process that holds promise in the treating of Parkinson's. The team created neurons from skin cells by blocking production of a single protein. The method bypasses existing techniques that make neurons from stem cells derived from skin cells, a complicated process.
The researchers found that the protein, called PTB, stops the activity of neuronal genes in non-neuronal cells. When PTB is blocked, the neuronal genes are activated and functional neurons can be produced. Neurodegenerative diseases are caused by defects in certain neurons, In Parkinson's the neurons stop producing dopamine.. Transplantations of fresh neurons could cure the disease, or at least relieve symptoms for many years.
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