Brain cells made from urine

December 11, 2012

Getting neurons from cells discarded in urine, may one day help develop therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease (credit: Lihui Wang)

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons, Nature News reports.

The method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms them into neural progenitor cells — the precursors of brain cells. These precursor cells could help researchers produce cells tailored to individuals more quickly and from more patients than current methods.

Researchers routinely reprogram cultured skin and blood cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can go on to form any cell in the body. But urine is a much more accessible source.