What better way to study a disease than by looking at cells from a patient? Researchers are using induced pluripotent stem cell technology to generate cells from patients with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and Down syndrome, among others, Technology Review's Emily Singer reports. "By differentiating these cells into the cell type affected in the disease, scientists can search for molecular missteps unique to these cells," Singer says. "The findings are already beginning to shed light on these diseases and are being used as a tool to test new treatments." Among these experiments, Gabsang Lee and Lorenz Studer created stem cells from patients with familial dysautonomia and found that the cells didn't differentiate into neurons as easily as cells from healthy people. Further, researchers from the Dolmetsch Lab at Stanford University generated neurons from a patient with Timothy syndrome — a rare disorder that affects the heart and brain — and found that the cells make too much of a certain enzyme, leading to a treatment to block the excess, Singer says.
Dec 01, 2011