Researchers at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute and the Columbia University Medical Center report that they have generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells lines from noncryoprotected brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The scientists say the new stem cell lines allow researchers to “turn back the clock” and observe how Alzheimer’s develops in the brain, potentially revealing the onset of the disease at a cellular level long before any symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s are displayed. These reconstituted Alzheimer’s cells could also provide a platform for drug testing on cells from patients that were definitively diagnosed with the disease.

Until now, the only available method to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease that has been available to researchers is examining the brain of deceased patients. This discovery will permit scientists for the first time to compare “live” brain cells from Alzheimer’s patients to the brain cells of other non-Alzheimer’s patients, according to the research team, which published a paper (“Generation of iPSC lines from archived noncryoprotected biobanked dura mater”) in Acta Neuropathologica Communications.

“We report the generation of iPSCs from frozen noncryoprotected dural tissue stored at -80°C for up to 11 years. This autopsy cohort included subjects with Alzheimer’s disease and four other neurodegenerative diseases,” wrote the investigators. “Disease-specific iPSCs can be generated from readily available, archival biobanked tissue. This allows for rapid expansion of generating iPSCs with confirmed pathology as well as allowing access to rare patient variants that have been banked.”

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