NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they used skin cells from seriously ill patients to create motor neurons that hold promise for treating Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
The research, led by Kevin Eggan of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, was published in the journal Science.
The motor neurons were created using a new technique that reprograms human adult skin cells into cells that resemble embryonic stem, or ES, cells, Columbia University Medical Center said Thursday in a release. The technique was first reported last year by researchers in Japan and Wisconsin.
"Up until now, it's been impossible to get access to the neurons affected by ALS and, although everyone was excited by the potential of the new technology, it was uncertain that we would be able to obtain them from patients' skin cells," co-author Chris Henderson of the Center for Motor Neuron Biology and Disease at Columbia, said in a statement.
"Our paper now shows that we can generate hundreds of millions of motor neurons that are genetically identical to a patient's own neurons," Henderson said. "This will be an immense help as we try to uncover the mechanisms behind this disease and screen for drugs that can prolong life."