Transform brain cells into neurons to compensate for the loss of these in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders? This is the strategy successfully followed, for the moment in mice, by two teams, and presented in the reviews Cell and Nature. In the latter, Xiang-Dong Fu (University of California, San Diego) and his colleagues described, on June 25, how they succeeded in blocking the expression of a protein, PTPB1, in astrocytes of brain cells (in green , opposite), which had the effect of converting them into dopamine-producing neurons (in red). These then re-innervated the striatum region, which resulted in improved movement control in the treated mice. We will now have to see if this strategy can be transferred to humans: can the conversion be as effective, could it have collateral effects by reducing the number of astrocytes or by touching other brain cells? In a commentary published jointly in Nature, Ernest Arenas (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm) sees it anyway “A new chapter in the development of regenerative medicine against neurodegenerative diseases”.
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