Developing a new set of treatments for the neurodegenerative diseases is difficult because of the inability to grow motor neurons in the lab. Generally, motor neurons are located in the spinal cord and project outside into the control effector organs, specifically muscles, and glands. Motor neurons are responsible for muscle contractions and the damage of motor neurons leads to some destructive diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and spinal muscular atrophy which finally leads to paralysis and early death.
A research group, from Washington University School of Medicine, St.Louis, developed a new method to transform healthy human skin cells directly into motor neurons without passing through a stem cell state. Researchers used skin cells from healthy adults age ranging, 20-60 years old. The whole study is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. This novel technique makes it easier and possible to study the motor neurons of the CNS (Central Nervous System) in the lab as human skin samples are easily available.
This transformation of skin cells to motor neurons has the potential to understand many neurodegenerative diseases and find new ways to treat damaged tissues and organs in the field of regenerative medicine.