With this method the researchers were able to prove for the first time that not only cell-intrinsic mechanisms, but also external environmental factors such as growth factors can control HPC lineage choice directly.
"This is simply because until now we did not have the suitable technology to observe the processes of cell differentiation and to measure them quantitatively," explained Dr. Timm Schroeder, research group leader at the Institute of Stem Cell Research of Helmholtz Zentrum München. "We didn’t know exactly what happens during this time span," Dr. Schroeder said. “That is why until now we could not prove what role cytokines play.”
With the new bioimaging techniques developed by Dr. Schroeder’s team, progenitor cells could be observed for a longer period and on the single-cell level. Depending on the kind of cytokines present, after a few days the HPC cultures contained only one cell type. The question remained unanswered whether this was a consequence of direct cytokine regulation or merely the result of sorting out “erroneously differentiated” cells by cell death. Using the new bioimaging techniques for continuous single-cell observation, Dr. Michael Rieger and students in Dr. Schroeder’s research group showed for the first time that no cell death could be detected during the entire cell differentiation process. This proves unambiguously that HPC lineage choices can be steered by external environmental factors such as in this case by cytokines. The hematopoietic progenitor cells are “instructed” by cytokines.
"These findings confirm that signaling pathways that are activated by cytokine receptors influence the lineage choices of the cells,” Dr. Schroeder said. “The new method offers us the unique chance to observe the effect of all the molecules involved in the differentiation process separately and to better understand their role. This is an important requirement for optimizing the therapeutic use of stem cells.”Further information
Helmholtz Zentrum München is the German Research Center for Environmental Health. As leading center oriented toward Environmental Health, it focuses on chronic and complex diseases which develop from the interaction of environmental factors and individual genetic disposition. Helmholtz Zentrum München has around 1680 staff members. The head office of the center is located in Neuherberg to the north of Munich on a 50-hectare research campus. Helmholtz Zentrum München belongs to the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest research organization, a community of 16 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of 26,500 staff members.Editor
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