Urine Power – Cells in Urine Restore Brain Power

Urine Sample

If you are a fan of Bear Grylls then this will be perfect for you! It is suggested that some of the waste that we flush down the toilet every day could be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Chinese scientists have found a relatively simple way of persuading the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable brain cells.

This research was announced back in December 2012, but I think it’s too fascinating not to talk about. Chinese researchers have found that kidney epithelial cells in urine can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are able to form into any cell within the body. Thus generating new brain cells.

By tweaking kidney epithelial cells, it can potentially provide a way of treating conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases by replenishing dead or damaged brain cells. Though this seems odd, scientists routinely reprogram cells from blood and skin into iPS cells. However, these approaches can lead to mutations within the cell. They can also be taken from embryos but this proposes ethical concerns.

Biologists at several Chinese institutions have managed to isolate kidney epithelial cells from the urine of donors by an unusual method. The usual protocol to reprogram a cell is with a virus. However, the scientists in this project used small circular pieces of bacterial DNA. This replicates in the cells cytoplasm (the gel like substance within it’s membrane) and the DNA goes to work transforming into iPS cells. The cells are then driven to produce mature brain cells that can generate nervous impulses.

Though this a revolting way of restoring brain cells, professor Duanqing Pei at the Chines Academy of Sciences says that, the reduced risk of mutation and the availability of raw material cells, compared with using blood, makes this project very appealing.

So after a night of drinking beer and destroying your brain cells. The best thing to do is have a pint of urine 😉 (I’m joking of course! – unless you really want to). So, would you drink urine to top up your brain cells?

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About krisfarrant

Kris is a postgraduate (Cognitive Neuroscience) who loves to talk/rant about science. From the weird to the wonderful. Follow Science Rant for the latest in quirky science stories. Twitter: @krisfarrant Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScienceRant

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