Chemical conversion of mouse fibroblasts into functional dopaminergic neurons

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Ectopic expression of lineage-specific transcription factors facilitates the conversion of mammalian somatic cells into dopaminergic (DA) neurons, which is a promising strategy for cell therapy of Parkinson's disease (PD). However, this approach still has some drawbacks limiting its clinical application due to the potential risks of integrating vectors into the host genome. Therefore, it is critical to seek a more desired approach to generate DA neurons derived from mammalian somatic cells. Here, we report that mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) can be efficiently converted into DA neurons by using small molecules along with specific growth factors. These neuron-like cells generate DA neuronal morphology, and acquire immunocytochemical and calcium imaging special for neuronal electrophysiological profile. More importantly, these converted cells can secrete dopamine, indicating that they are functionally similar to DA neurons. Taken together, our study might provide a promising cell source for treating PD by using chemical approach without introduction of exogenous transcription factors.

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