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UCSD Researchers Use Stem Cells to Replicate Alzheimer’s Neuron

Researchers have successfully used stem cells to replicate Alzheimer’s disease neurons, an exciting achievement that may lead to a better understanding of the currently incurable disease and hope for those who suffer or may one day suffer from it.

(Image: UCSD School of Medicine)

ABC News reports that researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a technology that utilizes stem cells to better model what happens in the diseased brain cells of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Their findings will be published in this week’s issue of Nature. 

The researchers used skin cells from patients who died from Alzheimer’s to turn those into brain cells that mirror those found in living Alzheimer’s patients. In doing so, the researchers were able to manipulate diseased cells, which will hopefully allow them to better study Alzheimer’s.

“We developed a true human neuronal model that accurately replicates early stages of the disease in true human brain cells, ”  Larry Goldstein, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UCSD’s medical school, told ABC News.

Goldstein said that the real achievement was developing a neuron purification process that enabled researchers to grow large numbers of the cells needed for study.

Dr. Richard Caselli of the renowned Mayo Clinic told ABC News that the UCSD research marks a “significant methodological breakthrough.”

“I strongly suspect we will be seeing a lot more of it being used by researchers in the future,” he added.

But other experts cautioned that the hope and excitement surrounding the UCSD research is premature.

“It is too soon to say how important it is or whether it will catch on generally,” Dr. Rachelle Doody, an Alzheimer’s specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, told ABC News.

Some 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the 6th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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