Monday, December 30, 2013

direct lineage reprogramming

A new finding by Harvard stem cell biologists demonstrates that it is possible to turn one type of already differentiated neuron into another within the brain.

The discovery by Paola Arlotta and Caroline Rouaux “tells you that maybe the brain is not as immutable as we always thought, because at least during an early window of time one can reprogram the identity of one neuronal class into another,” said Arlotta, an Associate Professor in Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (SCRB).

 Arlotta and Rouaux now have proven that neurons too can change their mind. Arlotta targeted callosal projection neurons, which connect the two hemispheres of the brain, and turned them into neurons similar to corticospinal motor neurons, one of two populations of neurons destroyed in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The work in Arlotta’s lab is focused on the cerebral cortex. These experiments will facilitate work in a new field of neurobiology that explores the boundaries and power of neuronal reprogramming.

Link to the story on

Harvard University Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

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