Human blood cells have been turned into stem cells of the nervous system. The authors called them induced neural plate stem cells.

Scientists at the German Center for Cancer Research in Heidelberg have reprogrammed human blood cells and fibroblasts into homogeneous stem cells of the nervous system. The work is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

In 2006, Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka first obtained induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) – stem cells formed from other cells by epigenetic reprogramming. The importance of his discovery was that iPS cells had properties identical to those of embryonic stem cells. He showed that only four genetic factors are needed for their elimination. In 2012, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this research.

For German biologists, this discovery became especially important because in Germany the creation of human embryonic stem cells is prohibited, said the main author of the article, Andreas Trumpp. He noted that other researchers had already transformed connective tissue cells into neural progenitor cells (neuroblasts), but their properties were not suitable for therapeutic purposes: “Often it was a heterogeneous mixture of different types of cells that could not exist inside the body.”

German researchers, like Yamanaka, used four genetic factors but completely different ones – specific to their reprogramming process. The resulting cells are of a homogeneous cell type. According to the authors, they resemble the stem cells of the nervous system, which are formed during embryonic development. This means that in the future they can become the basis for restorative therapy.

The researchers report that induced neural plate stem cells (iNBSCs) are capable of developing in two directions. On the one hand, this is the path to neurons and glial cells, on the other, the formation of cells of the peripheral nervous system. Thus, the victim may be a donor for the restoration of the damaged nervous system in the future.