Adult skin cells have been transformed into a type of neuron, which controls the feeling of hunger, according to the magazine Journal of Clinical Investigation. This transformation has been carried out by experts from the Columbia University Medical Center and the New York Stem Cell Foundation, who have genetically reprogrammed conventional skin cells to convert them into induced pluripotent stem cells.
The new cells, which physiological functions as basic as sleep, hypertension, mood and appetite, could secrete certain neuropeptides and respond to substances such as insulin or leptin, important actors in metabolism.
While these new cells are not completely identical to natural hypothalamic neurons, these new brain cells created in the laboratory will allow the neurophysiological mechanisms and biological abnormalities that lead to morbid obesity to be deepened, as the lead author has pointed out, Rudolph L. Leibel, professor of pediatrics and medicine:
We do not believe that these neurons are identical to natural hypothalamic neurons, but they are similar and yet they are useful for the study of neurophysiology of weight control, as well as molecular abnormalities that lead to obesity.