The news that Edinburgh scientists had created the world’s first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, at the university's Roslin Institute made headlines around the world 16 years ago. Her birth raised hopes of the creation of a new generation of medicines—with a host of these breakthroughs occurring at laboratories in the university over the following decade.
And now one of the most spectacular has taken place at Edinburgh's Centre for Regenerative Medicine, where scientists have continued to develop the technology used to make Dolly. In a series of remarkable experiments, they have created brain tissue from patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar depression and other mental illnesses.
The work offers spectacular rewards for doctors. From a scrap of skin taken from a patient, they can make neurones genetically identical to those in that person's brain. These brain cells, grown in the laboratory, can then be studied to reveal the neurological secrets of their condition.
“A patient’s neurones can tell us a great deal about the psychological conditions that affect them, but you cannot stick a needle in someone's brain and take out its cells," said Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, the centre's director.
“However, we have found a way round that. We can take a skin sample, make stem cells from it and then direct these stem cells to grow into brain cells.
Guardian News Service