Year 1

We and other groups have recently shown that it is possible to convert skin cells from foreskin of newborns into nerve cells that closely resemble nerve cells of the brain in terms of both shape and functional properties. However, the reprogramming of adult human skin cells is much less efficient. Therefore there must be some molecular difference between newborn and adult skin cells that causes the different reprogramming efficiency. This proposal is about to identify those differences. We have now after completion of the first year performed a detailed comparison of the two cell types before and after exposure to the reprogramming paradigm. We have now put together a list of factors that may cause the difference and are planning to now evaluate them in a functional way. We also found a critical factor that is actually part of the original factor combination that reprograms skin to nerve cells. This factor’s main function seems to be to repress the program that is responsible for the maintenance of the identity of the skin cells.