In most organs of the body, old cells are continually being replaced by new. If too many new cells are produced, however, it can lead to overgrowth and tumour formation. Too few cells, on the other hand, can result in organ degeneration. It is therefore crucial that exactly the right number of cells are produced.
As many serious disorders cause a reduction in the production of new cells, scientists are keen to develop drugs that stimulate the process, which in turn could help the body to cure itself.
It has long been known that the new cells are often formed by immature cells known as stem cells, but the mechanism regulating the number of new cells produced has remained something of a mystery. However, in a new study to be published by Cell stem-cell researcher Jonas Frisén has succeeded in showing how the body’s own stem cells do just this. Working alongside an American group of researchers, Professor Frisén and his team have identified a signal transduction process that regulates the degree of stem-cell division.
“Understanding how cell production is regulated increases our chances of producing drugs able to stimulate the endogenous production of new cells,” says Professor Frisén.
He hopes that the new findings can be used to develop drugs that stimulate, for example, the formation of new nerve cells to treat conditions such as stroke and Parkinson’s and skin cells to facilitate the healing of wounds. Professor Frisén is best known for his research on cerebral stem cells; the present study, however, has been carried out on stem cells in the intestine, one of the organs in the body with the highest rates of cell renewal.
“We also know that blood, brain and skin stem cells express the genes that we now know to be important in the intestine,” he says. “This suggests that the cell production mechanism can be the same for these stem cells too.”
The next step for Professor Frisén and his group is therefore to study how blood and skin stem cells go about producing new cells.
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22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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