A moment of innovative thinking by researchers at the University of Cambridge may pave the way for exploring into and discovering new treatment for diseases like autism and Alzheimer's.

Scientists have, for the first time, reported being able to create cerebral cortex cells that make up the brain's grey matter from a small sample of human skin.

The research, which has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, mentions that with the help of these innovations, it will now be possible to treat developmental conditions such as epilepsy and autism and also neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's.

It will also allow them to recreate brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, in the lab. This will give them previously impossible insight, allowing them to both watch the diseases develop in real time and also develop and test new drugs to stop the diseases from progressing.

"This approach gives us the ability to study human brain development and disease in ways that were unimaginable even five years ago," stated lead researcher Dr. Rick Livesey, Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.

For their research, the scientists took skin biopsies from patients and then reprogrammed the cells from the skin samples back into stem cells. These stem cells as well as human embryonic stem cells were then used to generate cerebral cortex cells.

"We are really pleased to have contributed funding for this work and the results are a positive step forward. Turning stem cells into networks of fully functional nerve cells in the lab holds great promise for unravelling complex brain diseases such as Alzheimer's," Dr. Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK, the UK's leading dementia research charity, said.

The research was funded by Alzheimer's Research UK and the Wellcome Trust.