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Serotonin Neurons Created From Stem Cells

Update Date: Dec 16, 2015 02:53 PM EST

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have harnessed stem cells in order to create specialized nerve cells generating serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the human brain. It is responsible to regulate the mood and appetite, among other functions.

"Serotonin essentially modulates every aspect of brain function, including movement," Su-Chun Zhang, who headed the research, said in a press release.

A few localized neurons in the back of the brain exert their influence on almost every part through neurons synthesising it.

Researchers started their experiment with stem cells taken from the embryos and adult cells, with which they recreated the chemical environment found in the brain developing in the uterus.

"That sounds reasonably simple, and we have made so many different types of neural cells," Zhang said. "Here, we had to instruct the stem cells to develop into one specific fate, using a custom-designed sequence of molecules at exact concentrations. That's especially difficult if you consider that the conditions needed to make serotonin neurons are scarce, existing in one small location in the brain during development."

Whatever stem cells were produced showed the predicted reactions to electrical stimulation, leading to the production of serotonin. They also reacted to FDA-approved drugs, which monitored anxiety and depression, acting on the serotonin pathway.

The results of the study can help to treat psychiatric disorders such as depression.

The study was published in the Dec. 14 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

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