The Loh Down On Science

Pee Brains

Ever feel like you’re flushing brain cells down the toilet?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Saying, that’s because you are!

At least now you are. Thanks to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They’ve transformed living cells found in human urine into neurons. Honest!

Yes, we pee cells that are shed from internal tissues. The Chinese team thought, “What a waste!” Literally! So they isolated cells from various volun-tinklers. Then, long story short, they used bacterial DNA to rewrite each cell’s assembly instructions. Presto! As the cells divided, they grew into what they were reprogrammed to be--bouncing baby brain cells. From there, the team grew fully functional neurons.

It could become a leading method for engineering neurons. It’s quick, relatively easy, and collecting source cells is, well, a whiz! No biopsies or blood draws required. It should allow studies of neurodegenerative diseases. Maybe even growing patient-specific brain cells to replace sick ones.

In the future, you might be able to call us pee brains, or to say, accurately, our brains are Number One! Sorry.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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