Without a doubt, the skin is one of the most important organs in the human body. Among the numerous reasons why the skin is an important organ is because it allows for sensation, acts as a waterproof shield and provides effective protection against bacteria and germs; recently, however, researchers have formulated a theory that skin can also be successfully converted into functional brain cells.
Scientists at Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California claim that they have developed a method for transforming skin cells into fully functional neurons. This could mean a breakthrough in mental disorder treatment as it is a much more noninvasive and personalized approach to the old, conventional methods. Many believe the current approach to treating mental disorders is flawed, and for good reason.
The way psychiatrists approach treating these issues is as follows: they give patients different types of drugs until one of them works. Pre-testing different drugs on skin cells taken from patients could help in determining which drug works best. After the team of scientists at Salk Institute collected skin cells from patients with mental disorders, they successfully reprogrammed them into stem cells.
Using these newly formed stem cells, the team then used a special biochemical substance to turn them into brain cells. After comparing the brain cells of healthy donors with those from the schizophrenic patients, they noticed a significant difference between them: the brain cells from the latter did not form as many connections and were also smaller in size.
After conducting further tests in petri dishes, the scientists noticed that the neurons from schizophrenic patients responded positively to five types of drugs. One of these, loxapine (a commonly used drug to treat severe mental disorders), successfully altered the connections among the neurons, giving a small demonstration as to how it would affect the patient.