Sensory Interneurons from Stem Cells Enable the Sense of Touch
Published : 2018-01-14
Author : University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences - Contact: uclahealth.org
Synopsis* : New protocol could be a step toward stem cell-based therapies to restore sensation in paralyzed people who have lost feeling in parts of their body.
Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have, for the first time, coaxed human stem cells to become sensory interneurons - the cells that give us our sense of touch. The new protocol could be a step toward stem cell-based therapies to restore sensation in paralyzed people who have lost feeling in parts of their body.
The study, which was led by Samantha Butler, a UCLA associate professor of neurobiology and member of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, was published today in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
Sensory interneurons, a class of neurons in the spinal cord, are responsible for relaying information from throughout the body to the central nervous system, which enables the sense of touch. The lack of a sense of touch greatly affects people who are paralyzed. For example, they often cannot feel the touch of another person, and the inability to feel pain leaves them susceptible to burns from inadvertent contact with a hot surface.
Human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons (green) showing nuclei in blue. Left: with retinoic acid added. Right: with retinoic acid and BMP4 added, creating proprioceptive sensory interneurons (pink) - Image Credit: UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center/Stem Cell Reports.
"The field has for a long time focused on making people walk again," said Butler, the study's senior author. "Making people feel again doesn't have quite the same ring. But to walk, you need to be able to feel and to sense your body in space; the two processes really go hand in glove."
In a separate study, published in September by the journal eLife, Butler and her colleagues discovered how signals from a family of proteins called bone morphogenetic proteins, or BMPs, influence the development of sensory interneurons in chicken embryos. The Stem Cell Reports research applies those findings to human stem cells in the lab.
When the researchers added a specific bone morphogenetic protein called BMP4, as well as another signaling molecule called retinoic acid, to human embryonic stem cells, they got a mixture of two types of sensory interneurons. DI1 sensory interneurons give people proprioception - a sense of where their body is in space - and dI3 sensory interneurons enable them to feel a sense of pressure.
The researchers found the identical mixture of sensory interneurons developed when they added the same signaling molecules to induced pluripotent stem cells, which are produced by reprogramming a patient's own mature cells such as skin cells. This reprogramming method creates stem cells that can create any cell type while also maintaining the genetic code of the person they originated from. The ability to create sensory interneurons with a patient's own reprogrammed cells holds significant potential for the creation of a cell-based treatment that restores the sense of touch without immune suppression.
Butler hopes to be able to create one type of interneuron at a time, which would make it easier to define the separate roles of each cell type and allow scientists to start the process of using these cells in clinical applications for people who are paralyzed. However, her research group has not yet identified how to make stem cells yield entirely dI1 or entirely dI3 cells - perhaps because another signaling pathway is involved, she said.
The researchers also have yet to determine the specific recipe of growth factors that would coax stem cells to create other types of sensory interneurons.
The group is currently implanting the new dI1 and dI3 sensory interneurons into the spinal cords of mice to understand whether the cells integrate into the nervous system and become fully functional. This is a critical step toward defining the clinical potential of the cells.
"This is a long path," Butler said. "We haven't solved how to restore touch but we've made a major first step by working out some of these protocols to create sensory interneurons."
The research was supported by grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and its Cal State Northridge-UCLA Bridges to Stem Cell Research program, the National Institutes of Health and the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.
Sensory Interneurons from Stem Cells Enable the Sense of Touch | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences (uclahealth.org). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
You're reading Disabled World. Be sure to check out our homepage for further informative disability news, reviews, disability sports events, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Related Regenerative Medicine Documents
- 1: Neuralstem Spinal Cord Injury Stem Cell Trial : Neuralstem, Inc. announce first patient was treated in trial testing NSI-566 human neural stem cells for treatment of chronic spinal cord injury (cSCI).
- 2: Inducing Human Hair Growth Using Pluripotent Stem Cells : Research team developed protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells.
- 3: Wisdom Teeth Stem Cells Could Treat Corneal Scarring : Stem cells from dental pulp of wisdom teeth could be used to repair corneal scarring due to infection or injury.
- 4: BafA Stimulates Production of New Blood Vessels : Study provides insight about BafA protein that may be further used in regenerative medicine for replacing or regenerating lost or damaged parts of the body.
- 5: Stem Cells Could Prevent Need for Joint Replacements : Adult stem cells show great potential in regenerative medicine including orthopedic applications.
*Disclaimer: Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on disabled-world.com does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World. View our Advertising Policy for further information. Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.
Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences. Electronic Publication Date: 2018-01-14. Title: Sensory Interneurons from Stem Cells Enable the Sense of Touch, Source: <a href=https://www.disabled-world.com/news/research/stemcells/sc-interneurons.php>Sensory Interneurons from Stem Cells Enable the Sense of Touch</a>. Retrieved 2021-04-16, from https://www.disabled-world.com/news/research/stemcells/sc-interneurons.php - Reference: DW#143-13216.