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Scientists reprogram skin cells into brain cells

Narrator:       This is Science Today. For the first time, scientists have reprogrammed skin cells into brain cells that can develop on their own in culture and form a functional network. This innovative technique may one day lead to better models for testing drugs for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

Huang:           This clearly is one step forward for the stem cell research to generate these induced neuro stem cell that can be used for the future.

Narrator:       Dr. Yadong Huang of the University of California, San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes explains that the technique involves what are called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, which — like embryonic stem cells — can become virtually any cell type in the human body. The problem is, they may develop into a tumor. Huang avoided this by using a single genetic factor to reprogram the cells without reverting to the pluripotent state.

Huang:           And then you can maintain them in culture and you can further develop them into neurons. But there's more work to be done to really make this practically useful.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.