12 February 2019

Lab Chat

Researchers at New York University in Abu Dhabi have made ground breaking progress towards offering ‘personalised medicine’ to patients in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Health care services around the world are starting to move away from a generalised approach to medicine and are in search of an individualised form of care.

Artificial nerve cells

The university has produced enlightening research on how nerve cells can successfully be grown in a laboratory. With this process, medical researchers can create nerve cells to be tested using certain drugs, identifying how to best treat particular patients or medical issues.

One of the study’s authors and an associate professor at the university, Dr Piergiorgio Percipalle, believes that this new technology “has huge potential for personalised medicine”. By understanding the development of nerve cells, experts are able to better understand the potential origin of particular diseases.

The study, which was published in the US journal ‘PLOS Genetics’, spoke about how nerve cells could potentially be grown from fibroblasts, a type of tissue cell. These calls can be gathered from patients through a skin biopsy and replicated to create new cells with the exact same genetic make-up.

Using these new cells, doctors can test new drugs or specific medication and review the effects before using them on patients. So, medication can be tailored to the exact needs of each patient, using exact replicas of their nerve cells. While nerve cells have been artificially created in previous studies, this new research provides new insights into the function of beta-actin, a protein found in the body, which controls the nerve cell creation process.

A better future for patients

This study brings new hope and possibilities for the world of medicine. Moving forward, the researchers hope to potentially repair damaged brain tissue in humans by extracting cells for testing and reimplanting the healthy cells back into the body once a solution has been found.

A similar concept was discovered in Greece back in 2012, when a study found that damaged areas of mice brains could be partially repaired when healthy, laboratory-created nerve cells were transplanted into the sick animal. Dr Percipalle says this is the study’s ultimate goal, to help facilitate the creation of personalised medicine. Manipulating a patient’s cells in the lab before reimplanting it in the patient could save thousands of lives in the future.

This is just one in a long line of medical advances made this year already. Scientists in the UK have recently launched a breath test that could potentially aid with early diagnosis of diseases. With the vast amount progress the medical world is making, we can all look forward to long, healthy lives with the help of modern medicine.

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