Embryonic stem cells have the potential to make all 200 cell types in the body. The challenge is to restrain this diversity and uncover the signals that commit stem cells to a single specialised function. Sally Lowell and her colleagues have now established that Notch gives embryonic stem cells the critical push towards becoming cells of the nervous system.
When Notch is activated in embryonic stem cells, most turn into nerve cells (green)
When Notch is switched off, most cells remain as embryonic stem cells (pink)
The researchers show that when Notch is activated in embryonic stem cells, up to 90% of the cells in the dish become nerve cells. In any colony of embryonic stem cells, under normal conditions, many never become cells of the nervous system: they spontaneously change into other cell types or remain as embryonic stem cells.
The Notch effect can be observed in both mouse and human embryonic stem cells, and can be created without any recourse to genetic engineering - all it takes is the presence of Notch activating signals in the cells that stem cells grow on.
As individual embryonic stem cells become specialised, they communicate with those around them. Notch is a major means of communication, and has, according to Dr Lowell, “a domino effect: once it is switched on in a small group of cells, it sets off a wave of Notch activation in neighbouring cells, directing them all to become cells of the nervous system.”
This research has far-reaching implications for other aspects of stem cell research. Dr Lowell adds, “We expect our findings to shed light on how to make other types of cell, such as muscle or pancreatic cells. If we can identify the processes that Notch blocks in embryonic stem cells we will have a handle on how to get them started, and so drive embryonic stem cells to become other types of cell that are more difficult to grow in the lab”.
Says Professor Austin Smith, leading the Edinburgh team and coordinating the EuroStemCell consortium, “This discovery gives us another method to generate pure populations of nerve cells – so important for drug screening, disease modelling and potential cell therapies. As in stem cell colonies, communication between EuroStemCell researchers has been crucial to this discovery. Our work would not have been possible without information and materials from colleagues in Cambridge, Paris and Stockholm.”
This research was supported by EuroStemCell, the BBSRC, the MRC and The Wellcome Trust.
Ana Coutinho | alfa
27.03.2015 | Oak Ridge National Laboratory
How did the chicken cross the sea?
27.03.2015 | Michigan State University
In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...
The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.
As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...
When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.
The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe.
Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...
Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.
From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
17.03.2015 | Event News
27.03.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
27.03.2015 | Materials Sciences
27.03.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation