Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

USC researchers track down the stem cells that create feathers

15.12.2005


Research, published in the journal Nature, may lead to insight on human organ regeneration



The stem cells that produce bird feathers have been visualized and analyzed for the first time, signifying the initial step in a scientific journey that may ultimately shed light on human organ regeneration.

The research, published in the December 15 issue of the journal Nature, was performed by a group of prominent stem-cell researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.


"What we found is that feather stem cells are distributed in a ring configuration around the inner wall of the vase-shaped feather follicle. This is different from hair stem cells, which are located in a bulge outside the follicle," explains Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology at the Keck School and principal investigator on this study.

Feather stem cells are of interest to scientists because of their profound regenerative abilities. A bird in nature molts twice a year. With more than 20,000 feathers on the average bird, Chuong notes, that means there are a lot of active, ongoing regenerative events in an adult bird.

Chuong and his USC colleagues identified epithelial stem cells within a chicken-feather follicle by giving the chickens water containing a non-radioactive label that was then incorporated and retained only in the putative epithelial stem cells. They showed that these cells were pluripotent-retaining the ability to differentiate into many different cell types-by taking the purported stem cells from quail-feather follicles and transplanting them into a chicken host. (Quail cells can be differentiated from chicken cells by cellular markers.) This demonstrated that only the labeled cells were pluripotent.

These stem cells, the researchers found, are well protected in the follicular base of each individual feather follicle. As they proliferate and differentiate, their progeny is displaced upward to create a feather. When the bird molts, the quill of the feather is dislodged from the follicle with a tapered proximal opening-the very feature that has historically made feathers so useful as writing implements-leaving behind a ring of stem cells for the creation of the next generation of feathers.

"The unique topological arrangement of stem cells, proliferating cells, and differentiating cells within the feather follicle allows for continuous growth, shedding, and regeneration of the entire organ," Chuong says.

Feathers are also of great interest to scientists due to their diverse shapes, each with its unique functional morphology. For example, the radially symmetric downy feathers found on chicks and on the trunks of adults are designed for warmth, while the bilaterally symmetric feathers found on the adult wing are designed for taking flight.

What Chuong and his colleagues found, to their surprise, was that the orientation of the ring of feather stem cells is related to the type of feather being generated: the stem cell ring is horizontally placed in radially symmetric downy feathers, but is tilted in bilaterally symmetric feathers, with the lower end of the ring on the anterior side of the follicle, where the rachis-the backbone of the feather-arises. In the Nature paper, Chuong postulates that it is this simple tilting that can transform feathers from radially symmetric to bilaterally symmetric morphologies by producing molecular gradients and/or asymmetric cell behaviors.

While this insight into the formation and regeneration of feathers is fascinating, it is the potential for application to human stem-cell studies that really motivates Chuong and his team.

"What we are really learning about is how stem cells are assembled into organs in nature. In this way, we can take advantage of the distinct patterns of the feather as a model to understand the fundamental principles of organ formation and regeneration," Chuong notes. "Nature is the best teacher for tissue engineering. What we decipher from our animal models can then be applied to help human stem cells and adult human organs to regenerate-and regenerate properly."

Jon Weiner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.usc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>