Thursday, December 20, 2012

China Exclusive: Scientists find new use for cells in human urine - Xinhua |

China Exclusive: Scientists find new use for cells in human urine - Xinhua |

GUANGZHOU, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists have found a new, innovative way to use cells found in human urine that could aid in the treatment of a range of neurodegenerative disorders.

The scientists have discovered a new technique for reprogramming cells shed in human urine into neural progenitor cells (NPCs) that can grow into multi-functional neuronal subtypes and glial cells.
The technique is expected to be used in the study and treatment of neural disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Their findings were published online on Dec. 9 in a research report in the journal Nature Methods, a monthly publication covering novel findings in life sciences.

Pei Duanqing, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, said his research team has combined an episomal system to deliver reprogramming factors with a chemically defined culture medium to reprogram kidney epithelial cells naturally shed in urine into NPCs.

These NPCs, normally only found in the human brain, were later proven to be transgene-free and self-renewing, he said.

"These neurons and glial cells can survive for up to one month when transplanted into the brain of a newborn rat," said Pei.

He said his team is working hard to understand why their experimental condition allowed the urine cells to become NPCs so as to improve the technique and make it more efficient.

Scientists have long sought to treat and study neural disorders by obtaining and transplanting neural stem cells. However, the previous method of isolating and using cells from either fetal or adult human tissue remain challenging due to ethical concerns and immune system rejections, he said.

Pei hopes the discovery will be used to generate NPCs from patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. "These NPCs from patients may help us discover new drugs for these diseases."

"It is a remarkable advance in the stem cell field," said Fred Gage, professor with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

They reprogrammed somatic cells with a non-integrating virus and epithelial-like cells from human urine, a novel, safe and abundant source of cells, he said.

The results and methods derived from this study will be of great value and significance to the field, he said.

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