Researchers Create Brain Tissue Using Skin Cells
By on January 31st, 2012

A medical miracle has been achieved in Edinburgh’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, Scotland, just a few miles from Roslin Institute, where Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep was created. Scientists have created brain cells from skin cells and this is to study patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression. Since, it is not possible to poke the brain and study the development and degeneration of brain cells in such patients, scientists have hoped for a workaround.

Brain network - an artist's impression

Using the Stem Cell Route

After long frustrating periods fraught with disappointing results, researchers finally made a breakthrough using skin cells to make stem cells, which can then be made into brain tissue. The main reason for this is that tissues degenerate soon after death. Furthermore, they get affected by lack of oxygen during death, medication and, of course, ultimate stages of the disease itself.

Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s Professor Andrew McIntosh, collaborating with the study, says:

That tissue is affected by whatever killed them and by the impact of the medication they had been taking for their condition, possibly for several decades. So having access to living brain cells is a significant development for the development of drugs for these conditions.

Controversy

Stem cells have been held up as a potential cure for many diseases, including cancer. Unfortunately, there has been opposition to the use of stem cells, especially when the stem cells need to be embryonic. Several religious groups have likened this to murder, as they believe that the soul enters the embryo when it is 10 days old and killing this fetus is equivalent to taking a life. Scientists around the world are strongly against this kind of reasoning, hailing stem cell research as the next big thing in medical sciences, a revolution potentially more impactful than even penicillin.

Embryonic Stem Cells (Courtesy: Scientific American)

As this pioneering experiment showed, it might be possible to generate tissues for other organs like lungs and heart. However, that is still some time away, even if funds and academic freedom are granted to scientists.

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Author: Debjyoti Bardhan Google Profile for Debjyoti Bardhan
Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

Debjyoti Bardhan has written and can be contacted at debjyoti@techie-buzz.com.
 
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