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 Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>