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Brain Cells from Urine

Chinese researchers recently developed a method for converting skin-like cells from the linings of kidney tubes (which are present in urine) into neural progenitor cells. The discovery could lead to new treatments for a variety of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Although often equated to stem cells, progenitor cells are actually oligopotent, meaning that they can only differentiate into a few types of cells – in this case, neurons and glia cells. But the key innovation is in the method used to convert them. Rather than reprogramming their genetic code using genetically engineered viruses, the researchers used bacterial DNA which replicates in the cell cytoplasm. In addition to being faster, it is thought that, by eliminating the need to tamper with the chromosomes directly, the chances of mutation are reduced.

For information: Lihui Wang, Dalian Medicl University, Department of Pathology, No. 465 Zhongshan Road, Shahekou District, Dalian, China; phone: +86 (0411) 469-1802; fax: +86 (0411) 467-2546; Web site:

Daniel Burrus' Top Twenty Technology-Driven Trends for 2013