Posts Tagged ‘stem cell research’
How do stem cells preserve their ability to become any type of cell in the body? And how do they “decide” to give up that magical state and start specializing?
If researchers could answer these questions, our ability to harness stem cells to treat disease could explode. Now, a University of Michigan Medical School team has published a key discovery that could help that goal become reality.
In the current issue of the prestigious journal Cell Stem Cell, researcher Yali Dou, Ph.D., and her team show the crucial role of a protein called Mof in preserving the ‘stem-ness’ of stem cells, and priming them to become specialized cells in mice.
Their results show that Mof plays a key role in the “epigenetics” of stem cells — that is, helping stem cells read and use their DNA. One of the key questions in stem cell research is what keeps stem cells in a kind of eternal youth, and then allows them to start “growing up” to be a specific type of tissue.
The promise of stem cell research for drug discovery and cell-based therapies depends on the ability of scientists to acquire stem cell lines for their research.
A survey of more than 200 human embryonic stem cell researchers in the United States found that nearly four in ten researchers have faced excessive delay in acquiring a human embryonic stem cell line and that more than one-quarter were unable to acquire a line they wanted to study.
“The survey results provide empirical data to support previously anecdotal concerns that delays in acquiring or an inability to acquire certain human embryonic stem cell lines may be hindering stem cell science in the United States,” said Aaron Levine, an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Results of the survey were published in the December issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology. Funding for the study was provided by the Kauffman Foundation’s Roadmap for an Entrepreneurial Economy Program.
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Human pluripotent stem cells, which can develop into any cell type in the body, rely heavily on glycolysis, or sugar fermentation, to drive their metabolic activities.
In contrast, mature cells in children and adults depend more on cell mitochondria to convert sugar and oxygen into carbon dioxide and water during a high energy-producing process called oxidative phosphorylation for their metabolic needs.
How cells progress from one form of energy production to another during development is unknown, although a finding by UCLA stem cell researchers provides new insight for this transition that may have implications for using these cells for therapies in the clinic.
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Schaffer completed his undergraduate work at Stanford University in chemical engineering and graduate work in chemical engineering at MIT. His postdoctoral work was in the laboratory of Dr Fred Gage, a neurobiologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. “For two years, I was the only engineer at the Salk Institute, and had immersed myself in the rich world of biology in a lab that had been making some paradigm-shifting discoveries in the field of neural stem cells and understanding how the adult brain continues to add neurons,” says Schaffer. It was during this pivotal period that Schaffer became fascinated with applying engineering approaches to the study of problems in stem cell biology.