Fat cells transformed to resemble nerve cells

May 30, 2002

DURHAM, N.C. -- Like biochemical alchemists, investigators from Duke University Medical Center and Artecel Sciences, Inc., have transformed adult stem cells taken from fat into cells that appear to be nerve cells.

During the past several years, Duke researchers and scientists from Artecel demonstrated the ability to reprogram adult stem cells taken from human liposuction procedures into fat, cartilage and bone cells. All of these cells arise from mesenchymal, or connective tissue, parentage. However, the latest experiments have demonstrated that researchers can transform these stem cells from fat into a totally different lineage, that of neuronal cells.

Although it is unclear at this point whether or not the new cells will function like native nerve cells, the researchers are optimistic that if future experiments are as successful as the ones to date, these new cells have the potential to treat central nervous system diseases and disorders.

"These experiments are proof of principle that it is possible to change one lineage of adult stem cells into another using fat," said Duke's Henry Rice, M.D., pediatric surgeon and senior author of the paper published today (May 31, 2002) in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (BBRC), a journal that publishes fast-breaking research in experimental biology. "If future studies in animal models are successful, we'll have gone a long way toward demonstrating the power of these cells to treat human diseases."

The research was supported by the American College of Surgeons and Artecel Sciences in Durham. Rice is a consultant for Artecel Sciences.

The team conducted parallel experiments in mice and human cells. In both cases, mouse adipose (fat) cells and fat cells taken from human liposuction procedures were treated with chemicals and growth factors and allowed to grow in the laboratory.

"Within hours the treated cells in both models began to look like neuronal cells and began to produce measurable amounts of proteins normally expressed by nerve cells," Rice said.

"This is a promising first step in the use of an abundant source of adult stem cells in the setting of central nervous system repair," said Jeffrey Gimble, M.D., chief scientific office at Artecel and co-author of the BBRC paper. "While it is known that you can create neuronal cells from adult stem cells taken from bone marrow, we feel that our approach with fat offers a limitless supply of readily obtainable adult stem cells."

Until recently, it was believed that organisms were born with the full complement of neuronal cells, and that new neurons could not be formed. According to the scientists, their research, as well as the experiments performed by others on bone marrow stem cells, open up new possibilities for the treatment of nervous system disorders or injuries.

"We are trying to think about human disease in a new way," Gimble said. "Everyone is used to the concept of surgical, medical or pharmacological approaches to the treatment of disease -- we're looking at one of the next steps in biotechnology, which is using cellular therapies."

The researchers are quick to point out that there are still many hurdles to be overcome before the use of these cells can occur in a clinical setting.

First, the cells were grown in tissue culture and survived after neuronal differentiation for several days. The researchers are confident that as they refine their techniques and evaluate different growth factors, they can extend the lifespan of these cells.

Secondly, while the new nerve cells have a form and function that resemble native nerve cells, it is not known if they will function in the same way as native nerve cells. The next series of experiments in the mouse model will test how the new cells react in a living system and if they will function like nerve cells, the researchers say.

The researchers believe the first animal models will focus on acute injuries such as stroke, in which blocked blood flow to the brain causes brain cell death, and spinal cord injuries. Other members of the team are, from Duke, Kristine Safford and Shawn Safford, M.D., and from Artecel Sciences, Kevin Hicok, Ph.D., Yuan-Di Halvorsen, Ph.D., and William Wilkison, Ph.D.
-end-


Duke University Medical Center

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.