SCIENTISTS are growing living brain cells from skin samples which could help research into treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh are growing the cells from skin samples taken from families known to carry faulty genes, which are believed to cause mental illness.
The project, which has received £1 million from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), aims to develop brain stem cells that could be used to test and screen drugs.
Scientists said it was not easy to understand the diseases using animal models.
They hope using cell-based systems derived from the skin or hair of affected patients will enable researchers to create tests that are more relevant to the disease in humans, and will reduce the dependence on animal models.
Andrew McIntosh, professor of biological psychiatry, said: “We are making different types of brain cells out of skin samples from people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
“Once we have grown these in the laboratory, we can then study the cells’ neurological function and see how they respond to standard psychiatric treatments. Following this, we hope to be able to screen new medicines.”