Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First serotonin neurons made from human stem cells

16.12.2015

Su-Chun Zhang, a pioneer in developing neurons from stem cells at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has created a specialized nerve cell that makes serotonin, a signaling chemical with a broad role in the brain.

Serotonin affects emotions, sleep, anxiety, depression, appetite, pulse and breathing. It also plays a role in serious psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.


Human serotonin-producing neurons, generated from induced pluripotent stem cells, created in the lab of Su-Chun Zhang in the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Blue indicates cell nuclei, red and green show typical markers for these neurons, which produce a neurotransmitter that affects large parts of the brain.

Credit: Jianfeng Lu and Su-Chun Zhang, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Serotonin essentially modulates every aspect of brain function, including movement," Zhang says. The transmitter is made by a small number of neurons localized on one structure at the back of the brain. Serotonin exerts its influence because the neurons that make it project to almost every part of the brain.

The study, reported today in the journal Nature Biotechnology, began with two types of stem cells: one derived from embryos, the other from adult cells. Because serotonin neurons form before birth, the researchers had to recreate the chemical environment found in the developing brain in the uterus, Zhang says.

"That sounds reasonably simple, and we have made so many different types of neural cells. Here, we had to instruct the stem cells to develop into one specific fate, using a custom-designed sequence of molecules at exact concentrations. That's especially difficult if you consider that the conditions needed to make serotonin neurons are scarce, existing in one small location in the brain during development."

The cells showed the expected response to electrical stimulation and also produced serotonin.

Although other scientists have matured stem cells into something resembling serotonin neurons, the case is much more conclusive this time, says first author Jianfeng Lu, a scientist at UW-Madison's Waisman Center. "Previously, labs were producing a few percent of serotonin neurons from pluripotent stem cells, and that made it very difficult to study their cells. If you detect 10 neurons, and only two are serotonin neurons, it's impossible to detect serotonin release; that was the stone in the road."

Instead, those neurons were identified based on cellular markers, which is "not sufficient to say those are functional serotonin neurons," Lu says.

To confirm that the new cells act like serotonin neurons, "we showed that the neurons responded to some FDA-approved drugs that regulate depression and anxiety through the serotonin pathway," Zhang says.

While the previous attempts "followed what was learned from mouse studies," the current study used other growth factors, Zhang says. "It was not exactly trial and error; we have some rules to follow, but we had to refine it little by little to work out -- one chemical at a time -- the concentration and timing, and then check and recheck the results. That's why it took time."

Although cells derived from stem cells are commonly used to test drug toxicity, Zhang is aiming higher with the serotonin neurons. "We think these can help develop new, more effective drugs, especially related to the higher neural functions that are so difficult to model in mice and rats," he says. "Particularly because they are from humans, these cells may lead to benefits for patients with depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety. These are some of the most troublesome psychiatric conditions, and we really don't have great drugs for them now."

Because the neurons can be generated from induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be produced from a patient's skin cells, "these could be useful for finding treatments for psychiatric disorders like depression, where we often see quite variable responses to drugs," says Lu. "By identifying individual differences, this could be a step toward personalized medicine.

"I'm like Su-Chun. I don't want to just make a publication in a scientific journal. I want our work to affect human health, to improve the human condition."

###

David Tenenbaum, 608-265-8549, djtenenb@wisc.edu

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. A patent application on the technology for producing the neurons has been filed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The authors declared no competing financial interests.

Su-Chun Zhang | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

nachricht The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>