How to reprogram cells … and why that matters to patients

Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, experience the degeneration of their motor neurons. The lab of USC Stem Cell researcher Justin Ichida converts skin biopsies or blood samples from patients with ALS into induced pluripotent stem cells, also known as iPS cells, by adding special chemicals that “rewind” them into an undifferentiated, embryonic state. iPS cells can then be reprogrammed into motor neurons, which recapitulate the symptoms of ALS in the petri dish and quickly start dying. Ichida’s lab then exposes these motor neurons to thousands of potential drugs to see if any of them slow or stop the cells’ degeneration in the petri dish. Eventually, his lab hopes to find drugs can be given to patients with ALS to stop the progression of their disease and deliver a cure.

Mentioned in this article: Justin Ichida, PhD