The extensive clinical characterisation of BioFinder study participants represents unique human biological data.
Brain cells from skin cells
New cell biology methods allow us to generate human brain cells from skin cells. In BioFinder we obtain skin cells from study participants by a skin biopsy from which dermal fibroblasts can be extracted and expanded.
Brain cells can be generated from skin cells in two fundamentally different ways. In 2012 Shinya Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discoveries that e.g. skin cells can be turned into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Such stem cells can be turned into practically any cell type in the human body, including brain cells. The other set of methods is called direct conversion because these techniques turn skin cells directly into nerve cells.
In BioFinder we use both these techniques. Today it is not known which of them generates brain cells that best resembles the donors’ own brain cells. One of our first aims is therefore to perform such comparisons. One advantage of the direct conversion technique is that it takes much less time than generating stem cell-derived nerve cells. An advantage of generating stem cells is that they can be multiplied indefinitely.
Clinical and cell biology research combined
Cultured cells are readily amenable to experimental research, a requirement for discovering the underlying disease mechanisms and for future drug development. BioFinder is unique in that we can combine knowledge about cell biology experimental data and detailed clinical characteristics.