Belgian scientists have completed a study, reprogramming skin cells from three dementia patients into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – immature cells that mimic stem cells taken from early-stage embryos. Their findings, which revealed a signalling pathway linked to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), are published in the January 13th 2015 edition of the journal, Stem Cell Reports.

Prof. Philip Van Damme, from the Leuven Research Institute for Neuroscience and Disease in Belgium, said: “Our findings suggest that signalling events required for neurodevelopment may also play major roles in neurodegeneration.

Treatment with a drug that suppressed the pathway, known as “Wnt”, restored the ability of neurons affected by the disease to develop normally. “Targeting such pathways…may result in the creation of novel therapeutic approaches for frontotemporal dementia”, Prof. Van Damme said.

The researchers found that iPSCs derived from the patients’ cells were unable to generate cortical neurons, the cell type most affected by FTD. Cortical neurons are the cells responsible for most of the brain’s complex higher activity enabling thought, perception and voluntary movement.

Co-author Dr Catherine Verfaillie, from the University of Leuven in Belgium commented that IPSC models could now be used to better understand dementia, and in particular FTD, which accounts for about half of dementia cases before the age of 60.

Source:  Alzheimer Europe


Link to article in Cell Journal

January 13, 2015