UCSF

Chemicals used to turn skin cells into heart and brain cells

In a major breakthrough, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes, led by UCSF School of Pharmacy faculty member Sheng Ding, PhD, have transformed skin cells into heart and brain cells using combinations of chemicals.

All previous work on cellular reprogramming required adding external genes to the cells, making this accomplishment an unprecedented feat. The research lays the groundwork for potentially being able to regenerate lost or damaged cells via pharmaceuticals.

“Our hope is to one day treat diseases like heart failure or Parkinson’s disease with drugs that help the heart and brain regenerate damaged areas from their own existing tissue cells,” said Ding, co-senior author of two studies published online today in Science and Cell Stem Cell. “This process is much closer to the natural regeneration that happens in animals like newts and salamanders, which has long fascinated us.”

Ding is a faculty member in the School’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and a senior investigator in the Roddenberry Stem Cell Center at Gladstone.

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Scientists Turn Skin Cells Into Heart Cells and Brain Cells Using Drugs

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About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.