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Induced motor neurons (iMNs)

The team converted mouse and human fibroblasts into iMNs by the forced expression of select transcription factors. Producing motor neurons this way is much less labor intensive than having to go through the process of creating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC, iPS cells), and is faster than the iPS method that it reduces the time needed for generating motor neurons from a year down to a few weeks.
Importantly, the direct reprograming does not involve the use of any factors known to trigger cancer or any other disease states.
iMNs appear to be fully functional. The cells displayed a morphology, gene expression signature, electrophysiology, synaptic functionality, in vivo engraftment capacity, and sensitivity to degenerative stimuli similar to those of embryo-derived motor neurons. iMNs can be used for rapid testing of new therapeutics for ALS and SMA.

Intellectual Property Status: Patent(s) Pending

Applications

Direct reprogramming of fibroblasts into functional spinal motor neurons
Harvard stem cell researchers have succeeded in reprogramming adult skin cells directly into the type of motor neurons damaged in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), best known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). These new cells, which researchers are calling induced motor neurons (iMNs), can be used to study the development of the paralyzing diseases and to develop treatments for them.

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