Published Thursday, May 21, 2015 12:04PM EDT

Canadian scientists say they have figured out a way to turn regular human blood cells into nerve cells, an achievement that could lead to new advances for those suffering chronic pain or nerve diseases.

Stem cell researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. say they have learned how to convert cells from blood into both central nervous system neural cells -- which are the neurons in the brain and spinal cord -- as well as cells from the peripheral nervous system, which are the nerves in the rest of the body that are responsible for sensing pain, heat and itches.

The research was led by Mick Bhatia, director of McMaster's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, who says, at first, his team couldn't believe that their method had worked ...