Neurons On Demand

Astrocytes in the adult mouse brain can be reprogrammed into neuronal precursors, then neurons, in vivo.

Abby Olena
Abby Olena
Dec 31, 2013

REBIRTH: Astrocytes (green) in the mouse brain can be reprogrammed into neuronal precursors (red), which can then develop into neurons (nuclei in blue). WENZE NIU

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN NEUROSCIENCE

The paper
W. Niu et al., “In vivo reprogramming of astrocytes to neuroblasts in the adult brain,” Nat Cell Biol, 15:1164-75, 2013.

The finding
Scientists have coaxed differentiated cells to become neuronal progenitor cells many times in vitro. But this had not been accomplished in vivo until Chun-Li Zhang of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas tried injecting different combinations of reprogramming candidates into the brains of older mice. Zhang’s group found that injection of a single transcription factor—SOX2—is necessary and sufficient to convert nonneuronal cells to neuronal precursors called neuroblasts, which can then become functional neurons.

The experiments
The research team used lineage tracing to determine that the cells responding to SOX2 were a type of...