In a stem cell breakthrough that could speed-up treatment of dementia, American scientists have claimed to have developed a method to directly convert skin cells into nerve cells.

“We actively and directly induced one cell type to become a completely different cell type,” claimed study author Dr. Marius Wernig from Stanford University in California.

“These are fully functional neurons. They can do all the principal things that neurons in the brain do,” Dr. Wernig wrote in the journal Nature.

The breakthrough could “revolutionise the future of human stem cell therapy” for the regeneration of brains, said the researchers.

In a mouse-model laboratory experiment, Dr. Wernig’s team selected 19 genes involved in either genetic reprogramming or neural development and function and introduced them into mouse embryo skin cells using a virus, The Telegraph reported.

The team then monitored the changes in the rodents.

They observed that the cells connected with other nerve cells within one week and with an efficiency of almost 20 per cent.

After 32 days, some of the former skin cells had acquired the appearance of nerve cells and were producing neural proteins.

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