Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Technology
By Deborah Joye
The goal of this technique is to take skin cells from patients and reprogram them to become neurons, allowing investigation into how that individual’s brain cells function and respond to signals. During development our cells begin as pluripotent stem cells, which can become any type of cell in the body. As we develop, signals from our body program cells to differentiate into skin cells, liver cells, brain cells etc. iPSC technology takes cells that have already decided what they want to be (skin cells) and exposes them to signals that turn them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Once cells are iPSCs they can be exposed to signals which encourage them to become neural precursor cells (NPCs). NPCs will become brain cells, but the specific type of brain cell depends on exposure to more signals. Ultimately iPSC technology allows researchers to collect skin cells from a patient and make them into neurons from any region of the brain – not only allowing specific investigation of that patient’s brain cells, but also how cells from a specific brain region may function.