The findings, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may one day help scientists create laboratory environments to grow specialized cells that can be transplanted into patients to treat epilepsy, Parkinson's, Huntington's and Alzheimer's diseases or other brain disorders.
Scientists observed that when embryonic stem cells from mice were plated on four different surfaces in cell culture dishes, specific types of cells would arise.
"The medium and the molecular environment influence the fate of the cell," said Dennis Steindler, Ph.D., executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute. "We simulated some events that occur while the brain is developing and challenged them with different environments, and the effects are profound. Ultimately both nature and nurture influence the final identity of a stem cell, but in early stages it seems nurture is very important."
In experiments, scientists confirmed a cell culture surface molecule called laminin activates a common developmental pathway that is crucial for the generation and survival of particular types of brain cells.
The laminin-influenced stem cells are a kind that goes on to generate a brain structure called the medial ganglionic eminence, which in turn is believed to give rise to a population of early neurons in the developing cerebral cortex, a structure that helps coordinate sensory, motor and cognitive function.
"This is significant because this molecule is frequently used to secure cells onto culture dishes in stem cell labs all over the world," said Bjorn Scheffler, M.D., a neuroscientist with UF's College of Medicine. "Everyone believes this molecule is purely growth supportive, but now we've shown it changes the fate of cells it is working with. When you grow the cells in a culture dish you are actually educating them to become something very special."
In that respect, the discovery sheds light on how embryonic stem cells diversify to form various neural structures, one of the fundamental mysteries of brain development, the researchers say.
Since the 1980s, Steindler has studied the effect of certain molecules in the extracellular matrix, a mixture that surrounds developing brain cells. Transiently appearing and disappearing, these molecules apparently cordon the brain into different regions.
If molecules from the matrix activate genes in stem cells responsible for generating neural components, potentially any of the molecules can be tested to find its specific role during development of the brain, according to UF neuroscientist Katrin Goetz, M.D., first author of the paper.
In addition, the discovery reinforces a notion that rodent embryonic stem cell biology can be used to understand basic brain mechanisms, potentially leading to treatments where adult stem cells are taken from patients, cultured and transplanted into damaged brain environments to restore functions lost to disease or injury.
"We largely keep the brain cells we are born with for life, but we also have stem cells in our brain that can divide and make new neurons for maintenance," said Gordon Fishell, Ph.D., a professor of cell biology with the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University Medical Center who was not involved in the research. "Stem cells continue to proliferate because they are in a specialized 'niche' that nurtures them and keeps them dividing. Previous studies have shown that factors in the niche are important for stem cell proliferation. Less studied are the means by which these cells are directed to become specific types of neurons useful in the adult brain. This work is the first to systematically look at how components in the extracellular matrix affect the fate of these cells. It seems the niche doesn't just support these cells, it tells them what to become. It educates stem cells for a bright future."
John Pastor | EurekAlert!
Ambush in a petri dish
24.11.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons
The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences