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Technology and Health News > Thursday, June-19-2008

How stem cells become neurons



A newly discovered molecule, Isx-9, is able to make stem cells mature into brain cells. The study in Nature Chemical Biology

They came across this behavior, while they were stimulating stem cells to give rise to cardiac cells, when researchers from the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas at Dallas, have discovered that some of the molecules tested have matured however into neural cells. Completely random, therefore, this lead to the isolation of Isx-9, the most powerful among the compounds tested, capable, at very low concentrations, to create differentiated neurons. The study, conducted by researchers led by Jay Schneider and Jenny Hsieh was published on the number of Nature Chemical Biology.

Scientists began testing 147 thousand molecules for the project in order to isolate those who could stimulate embryonic stem cells to differentiate into cardiac cells. Stunningly, American researchers have noted that five of these compounds caused the stem to rise to neurons. One of these molecules was selected because it was acting to lower concentrations of the other and was more soluble in water. This, has given life to the compound Isx-9 that has been tested on neural stem cells from the brain, particularly those of the hippo campus of laboratory animals. In the test tube, the stem, under the action of Isx-9, could form the clusters and develop the first steps towards the formation of neurons.

This discovery represents a starting point for the neuro-regenerative medicine and chemotherapy for brain tumors, "said Jenny Hsieh, professor of molecular biology at the University of Texas. The first of many steps, however, will be the study of genes with which Isx-9 i interacts in order to reconstruct the sequence that leads to the differentiation of neurons.

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