While the controversy surrounding the ethics of stem cell research shows no signs of abating, scientists continue to demonstrate the promise of stem cell–derived therapies for a wide range of degenerative diseases. The hope is that stem cells, which retain a unique "pluripotent" ability to morph into any of the 200 cell types of the human body, could be used to repair or replace damaged or diseased tissue. However, little is known about the molecular events that trigger this differentiation of stem cells. In this issue of PLoS Biology, Minoru Ko and colleagues present a model that takes a first step towards characterizing the molecular profile of stem cells, based on a comprehensive database of genes expressed in mouse early embryos and stem cells.
Arguing that a broad understanding of these molecular determinants requires a broad selection of cell types, the scientists combined new gene expression data on early embryos and stem cells with existing gene expression data to compare transcription patterns across a wide range of cell types and developmental stages. The expanded mouse transcriptome (record of transcribed genes) included data on unfertilized eggs; "totipotent" fertilized eggs, which have the potential to become any cell; pluripotent embryonic cells; various embryonic and adult stem cells; and fully differentiated cells.
Because they examined tissues that had not previously been included in studies of expressed sequences, Ko et al were able to find 1,000 new gene candidates, which they grouped according to particular embryonic stage and stem cell type. From these signature gene sets, they identified a cluster of 88 genes which may serve as molecular markers of developmental potential.
Barbara Cohen | PLoS
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Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
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Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
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For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
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An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
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A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
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