I read an article a few days back and the concept it exposed me to has been bouncing around in my head ever since. I know because every few hours, or other day, it pops up again by itself.
I’m thinking about something and have a slight pause and Bang! this train of thought pops up out of whatever subconscious tunnel it’s been running in and I can hear it for a few seconds … then the world intrudes, distracts me and when I turn back it’s back inside the tunnel where I can’t see or hear it.
What is this concept?
Why, that you can change skin cells into brain cells without turning them into stem cells first!
Whoa! Say that again? Did they just back the truck up on cellular reprogramming? How does that work?
It turns out there are ‘Cell Reprogramming Molecules’ … special microRNA molecules that can change which chapter of the nuclear DNA the cell is reading from. Every cell has a complete copy of your DNA but only parts of it are needed for the processing, cellular structure building and maintenance for any given type of cell.
Think of your DNA like the instructions and service manuals for every single part that goes into a human. Skin cells are covered in part of the information, kidney cells in another section (think chapter), muscle cells use others chapters … every type of cell reads from a different part of the DNA.
I already knew this, I think most of us do now … but stop for a second and think about this question: With the billions of cells in your body how is it that the kidney cells know to be kidney cells and not brain cells? Or, why don’t you get retina cells in your stomach lining? Or teeth cells in your pancreas?
I can’t really remember stopping to wonder at that before … if any given cell has a complete and total copy of All the instructions on how to be Any type of cell then why does it become the one it ends up as and not something else?
Well it turns out that the chemical environment it finds itself in contains these cellular reprogramming molecules and these help guide the cell’s DNA transcription machinery to the appropriate part of the instructions. This may not be the whole answer but some clever researchers have shown that they can indeed entice skin cells to become brain cells. By using these chemical messengers to ‘persuade then to change their minds about what they were’.
WOW! I’m Impressed!
In this article in Medical News Day they talk about it.
Think about the beauty of this …
When they use stem cells they sometimes get other cells types they didn’t want. Why? Maybe this has something to do with that process as well.
This may mean another way to do cellular surgery without resorting to morally controversial stem cell harvesting or, some what still experimental, Induced Pluri-potent Stem Cells (IPS).
Anything that points in the direction of more alternative ways to replace old or damaged tissue with new, healthy, self-donor tissue is a boon to mankind.