Scientists in Luxembourg have taken human stem cells from skin samples and used them to create three-dimensional brain-like clusters. The cells in these clusters behave like those in the human midbrain. The midbrain is of interest in Parkinson’s disease, where neurons producing the neurotransmitter dopamine can malfunction and die. It is hoped that the new brain-like clusters could be used to study the role that Parkinson’s disease plays within the brain.
At present, studying live human brain tissue is difficult or impossible because of ethical concerns. Prof. Dr. Jens Schwamborn, corresponding author on the study recently published in Stem Cell Reports, described the potential of the clusters for research into neurodegenerative diseases: “Our cell cultures open new doors to brain research. We can now use them to study the causes of Parkinson’s disease and how it could possibly be effectively treated.”
The team developed a specific cocktail of growth factors that caused induced pluripotent stem cells from skin samples to form tissue-like clusters. When they analyzed the clusters, they found that the various cell types present were very similar to those found in the midbrain. “The cells can transmit and process signals. We were even able to detect dopaminergic cells – just like in the midbrain,” says Schwamborn. “We can test what effects environmental impacts such as pollutants have on the onset of the disease, whether there are new active agents that could possibly relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s – or whether the disease could even be cured from its very cause. We will be performing such investigations next.”
Study in Stem Cell Reports. Derivation of Human Midbrain-Specific Organoids from Neuroepithelial Stem Cells…