LOS ANGELES: Researchers have developed a method to generate one of the main cell types of the brain, which plays a key role in responding to injury and disease.
The finding marks an important step in the use of human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for potentially treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
These iPS cells are derived from existing adult skin cells and show increasing utility as a promising approach for studying human disease and developing new therapies.
The study, led by researchers at University of California, Irvine (UCI) in the US, used a genetic process to reprogramme these cells into a pluripotent state capable of developing into any type of cell or tissue of the body.
The researchers then guided these pluripotent cells to a new state by exposing the cells to a series of differentiation factors which mimicked the developmental origin of one of the principle cell types of the brain – microglia.
The resulting cells act very much like human microglial cells.
In the brain, microglia mediate inflammation and the removal of dead cells and debris. These cells make up 10- to 15-per cent of brain cells and are needed for the development and maintenance of neural networks.
“Microglia play an important role in Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the central nervous system. Recent research has revealed that newly discovered Alzheimer’s-risk genes influence microglia behaviour,” said Mathew Blurton-Jones, assistant professor at UCI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre.
“Using these cells, we can understand the biology of these genes and test potential new therapies,” said Blurton- Jones.
“Scientists have had to rely on mouse microglia to study the immunology of AD. This discovery provides a powerful new approach to better model human disease and develop new therapies,” said Wayne Poon, a UCI MIND associate researcher.
Along those lines, the researchers examined the genetic and physical interactions between Alzheimer’s disease pathology and iPS-microglia.
The study appears in the journal Neuron. (AGENCIES)