While the ability of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to become any type of mature cell, from neuron to heart to skin and bone, is indisputably crucial to human development, no less important is the mechanism needed to maintain hESCs in their pluripotent state until such change is required.
In a paper published in this week's Online Early Edition of PNAS, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine identify a key gene receptor and signaling pathway essential to doing just that – maintaining hESCs in an undifferentiated state.
The finding sheds new light upon the fundamental biology of hESCs – with their huge potential as a diverse therapeutic tool – but also suggests a new target for attacking cancer stem cells, which likely rely upon the same receptor and pathway to help spur their rampant, unwanted growth.
The research, led by principal investigator Karl Willert, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, focuses upon the role of the highly conserved WNT signaling pathway, a large family of genes long recognized as a critical regulator of stem cell self-renewal, and a particular encoded receptor known as frizzled family receptor 7 or FZD7.
"WNT signaling through FZD7 is necessary to maintain hESCs in an undifferentiated state," said Willert. "If we block FZD7 function, thus interfering with the WNT pathway, hESCs exit their undifferentiated and pluripotent state."
The researchers proved this by using an antibody-like protein that binds to FZD7, hindering its function. "Once FZD7 function is blocked with this FZD7-specific compound, hESCs are no longer able to receive the WNT signal essential to maintaining their undifferentiated state."
FZD7 is a so-called "onco-fetal protein," expressed only during embryonic development and by certain human tumors. Other studies have suggested that FZD7 may be a marker for cancer stem cells and play an important role in promoting tumor growth. If so, said Willert, disrupting FZD7 function in cancer cells is likely to interfere with their development and growth just as it does in hESCs.
Willert and colleagues, including co-author Dennis Carson, MD, of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine and professor emeritus at UC San Diego, plan to further test their FZD7-blocking compound as a potential cancer treatment.
Co-authors include Ian J. Huggins, Luca Perna and David Brafman, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, UCSD; Desheng Lu and Shiyin Yao, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center; and Terry Gaasterland, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Institute for Genomic Medicine, UCSD.
Funding support for this research came, in part, from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program.
Scott LaFee | EurekAlert!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy