IUPUI scientists make breakthrough in controlling stem cells in the brain

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Scientists at IUPUI have found a new way to manipulate genes in the brain, potentially opening the door for new treatments of disease.

The team of scientists believes they can alter the epigenetic state of the Ascl1 that would in turn tell stem cells in the brain what to do. The process uses, proteins, enzymes and blue light to achieve the effect.

“They’re actually the structure to tell the DNA how to turn on and turn off the genes,” Dr. Feng Zhou said.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of genes. Zhou believes that by modifying certain genes they can facilitate those genes to operate a certain way and eventually target disease.

“It’s going to have quite a broad application, for example how to silence a cancer gene,” Zhou said.

If successful the “epigenetic key” can also lead to the suppression of brain tumors or the reversal or alleviation of certain disorders such a Downs Syndrome.

“Suddenly the light is here and the dawn is shining,” Zhou said.

The research is still far from human application. Zhou says he wants to make sure the process is safe before moving onto animal trials.

For more information on the breakthrough, click here.