Skin cells as stem cells

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Dr. Deepak Srivastava and Dr. Sheng Ding are two of the many minds at Gladstone Institute, using not adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells, but your own skin cells to repair bodies from the inside out.

"It means in the future one might be able to create new heart cells, new lung cells, new spinal cord cells, starting with your own cells from your skin," says Dr. Srivastava.  He is taking adult skin cells and turning them into beating heart cells.  It's called direct reprogramming.  " We've been able to create a beating heart cells that used to be on someone's skin…which is really like science fiction."

Dr. Ding says the same approach could be used to repair spinal cord injuries and practically any other part of the body. "We've been working on new methods that can convert cells from the skin to brain cells." Dr. Ding has transformed the adult skin cells into neurons that are capable of transmitting brain signals.  The doctors hope this could reverse the effects of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and stroke.

Doctors say because they're using a patient's own skin cells, there's little to no chance of rejection.  These skin cells could also be used to test new drugs and each patients possible response to those drugs.  They hope this would allow doctors to better personalize medicine.

GLADSTONE INSTITUTE: The J. David Gladstone Institutes is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), devoted to research into cardiovascular disease, viral infections and neurological disorders. Gladstone is composed of three institutes: The Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, which opened in 1979; the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease. While independent, Gladstone is formally affiliated with UCSF. Gladstone investigators participate in many university activities, including the teaching and training of graduate students.

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