Scientists develop brain cells from human pee

In a breakthrough, scientists have engineered brain cells from human pee, a finding that could revolutionise treatments for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

As a person urinates, skin cells are routinely shed from the lining in the kidney, and it's these cells that the researchers reprogrammed into stem cells, which can turn into any type of cell in the body, including brain cells.

The new research could one day provide a quicker way to make brain cells that are unique to an individual, 'LiveScience' reported.

Because the technique relies on urine, which is much easier to get than blood, it could be easier to extract such cells from almost any patient, including children, Marc Lalande, a researcher at the University of Connecticut Health Center told Nature News.

"It's easier to get a child to give a urine sample than to prick them for blood," Lalande said.

Chinese researchers, in the current study, used a newer, safer approach by harvesting skin cells that line the kidneys and are routinely shed in human urine.

They injected new genetic instructions to reprogramme cells to become brain cells. But unlike the viral method, those instructions only stick around temporarily, Brennand said.

"Holes are made in the cell membrane so DNA can enter, but because the DNA doesn't integrate into the genome, but just sits in the cyplasm, it exists transiently," Brennand said.

The reprogramming instructions are therefore eventually lost as the cells divide, Brennand wrote.

With these new genetic instructions, the cells transformed into brain stem cells, which can turn into different types of brain cells. The transformation from kidney cell to brain stem cell took just 12 days, and within a month, the cells had morphed into full-fledged brain cells.

Unlike other stem cell technologies, the pee-based brain cells didn't form tumours when implanted into rats.

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