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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Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
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The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
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