Neurons receive, process and transmit all impulses in our brains. Essentially, they are the building blocks of the human nervous system, and once they are damaged by Alzheimer's or some other brain injury, they are made for – they do not have regenerative abilities.
In contrast, glial cells that support and isolate neurons do have regenerative capabilities, and now Penn State researchers think they have found an effective way to effectively transform cells glial in neurons – a discovery that could lead to a pill to repair the brain
Based on a previous study, Penn's team knew that it was possible to convert human glial cells into neurons using a sequence of nine tiny molecules. However, the high number of molecules and the specific sequence made it difficult to transition from the lab to something that could work in a clinical setting.
In a study published in the journal Stem Cell Reports on Thursday, Penn's team describes how he found a way to streamline the process of creating neurons from a type of glial cells called astrocytes with remarkable success .
"We have identified the most efficient chemical formula among the hundreds of drug combinations we have tested," The researcher Jiu-Chao Yin said in a press release. "By using four molecules that modulate four critical signaling pathways in human astrocytes, we can efficiently transform human astrocytes ̵
The Penn team acknowledged in the press release that it still has a long way to go before its latest research can help people with brain damage, but is extremely optimistic about the future.
"The most significant benefit of the new approach is that a pill containing small molecules could be widely distributed around the world, even reaching rural areas without advanced hospital systems," said research leader Gong Chen.
"My last dream is to develop a simple drug delivery system, such as a pill, that can help stroke and Alzheimer's patients around the world to regenerate new neurons and restore their learning abilities and memory lost, "he continued. "Our years of effort to discover this simplified formula make us take a step forward to achieve our dream."