Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Breaking News: Bipolar Neurons Made from Skin Cells

Stem cell model shows nerve cells develop, behave and respond to lithium differently – opening doors to potential new treatments

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — What makes a person bipolar, prone to manic highs and deep, depressed lows? Why does bipolar disorder run so strongly in families, even though no single gene is to blame? And why is it so hard to find new treatments for a condition that affects 200 million people worldwide?

Bipolar neural progenitor cells

These cells, made from the skin of people with bipolar disorder,
may help scientists understand the condition & develop new treatments.
 
New stem cell research published by scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School, and fueled by the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund, may help scientists find answers to these questions.

The team used skin from people with bipolar disorder to derive the first-ever stem cell lines specific to the condition. In a new paper in Translational Psychiatry, they report how they transformed the stem cells into neurons, similar to those found in the brain – and compared them to cells derived from people without bipolar disorder.

The comparison revealed very specific differences in how these neurons behave and communicate with each other, and identified striking differences in how the neurons respond to lithium, the most common treatment for bipolar disorder.

It’s the first time scientists have directly measured differences in brain cell formation and function between people with bipolar disorder and those without.

The researchers are from the Medical School’s Department of Cell & Developmental Biology and Department of Psychiatry, and U-M’s Depression Center.
 
 
VIDEO: U-M researchers describe the power -- and promise -- of
using induced pluripotent stem cells to study bipolar disorder.
 
Stem cells as a window on bipolar disorder
The team used a type of stem cell called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. By taking small samples of skin cells and exposing them to carefully controlled conditions, the team coaxed them to turn into stem cells that held the potential to become any type of cell. With further coaxing, the cells became neurons.
 
“This gives us a model that we can use to examine how cells behave as they develop into neurons. Already, we see that cells from people with bipolar disorder are different in how often they express certain genes, how they differentiate into neurons, how they communicate, and how they respond to lithium,” says Sue O’Shea, Ph.D., the experienced U-M stem cell specialist who co-led the work.
Process for making neurons from skin cells
A small skin sample from a person with bipolar disorder
can yield stem cells that can be coaxed to become
neurons just like those in the brain.
  
 
“We’re very excited about these findings. But we’re only just beginning to understand what we can do with these cells to help answer the many unanswered questions in bipolar disorder’s origins and treatment,” says Melvin McInnis, M.D., principal investigator of the Prechter Bipolar Research Fund and its programs.
 
 

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