News of the WeekDevelopmental Biology

Brain Cells Turning Over a New Leaf

Science  08 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5485, pp. 1666
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5485.1666a

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New findings described on page 1754 offer the strongest evidence yet that certain cells can be steered onto new career paths even after they've become committed to a particular job. In the current work, researchers managed to coax rat oligodendrocyte precursor cells, which scientists thought were irreversibly committed to becoming neuronal handmaidens called oligodendrocytes or astrocytes, into becoming neurons. Because they ran several experiments to test the purity of their well-characterized cells, they say it is unlikely that the effect was due to undetected immature cells.