A new technique being heralded as a breakthrough could have significant implications for the treatment of cerebral palsy.

Researchers say they’ve found a way to transform ordinary skin cells into brain cells that are missing or damaged in individuals with cerebral palsy and related disorders like multiple sclerosis. In such conditions, so-called myelinating cells — which help the brain send instructions to the rest of the body — cannot naturally be replaced.

In a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Biotechnology, scientists say they have successfully used the technique to alter cells from mice and are now looking to test it on human cells.

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The approach dubbed “cellular reprogramming” is particularly promising, researchers say, because it relies on fibroblasts, a type of cell found in skin and many organs, that is abundantly available.

“We are taking a readily accessible and abundant cell and completely switching its identity to become a highly valuable cell for therapy,” said Paul Tesar, assistant professor of genetics and genome sciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and a senior author of the study.

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