Biologists in China have published a study detailing how they transformed common cells found in human urine into neural stem cells that can be used to create neurons and glial brain cells. The find holds huge potential for the rapid testing and development of new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.
The team, from the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, had announced in 2011 that it had successfully reprogrammed skin-like cells from the kidneys, found in urine, into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These iPS cells can be tweaked to become pretty much any human cell in the body; however the traditional technique prompting this transformation — inserting pluripotent genes into the blanket cells via a genetically engineered retrovirus — has its flaws. It seems the presence of the retrovirus leads to a destabilisation of the genome, rendering it unpredictable, susceptible to mutations and thus a liability.