Two years after transforming human fat cells into what appeared to be nerve cells, a group led by Duke University Medical Center researchers has gone one step further by demonstrating that these new cells also appear to act like nerve cells.


The team said that the results of its latest experiments provide the most compelling scientific evidence to date that researchers will in the future be able to take cells from a practically limitless source — fat — and retrain them to differentiate along new developmental paths. These cells, they said, could then be used to possibly treat a number of human ailments of the central and peripheral nervous systems.



The results of the team’s latest experiments were published June 1, 2004, in the journal Experimental Neurology.



Using a cocktail of growth factors and induction agents, the researchers transformed cells isolated from mouse fat, also known as adipose tissue, into two important nerve cell types: neurons and glial cells. Neurons carry electrical signals from cell to cell, while glial cells surround neurons like a sheath.



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