Uncovering the nature and location of these molecular tags could allow scientists to pull off the ultimate trick of taking a patient’s own fat cells and using them for therapy, Collas told researchers gathered at the EuroSTELLS Workshop ‘Exploring Chromatin in Stem Cells’ held on January 23-24, in Montpellier, France.
“Fat tissue is an underappreciated source of stem cells,” Collas pointed out. Unlike other sources of adult stem cells, such as bone marrow, fat is abundant and there is no shortage of donors. “It’s wonderful, we have litres and litres of material from cosmetic surgery clinics and end up with bucketfuls of stem cells to work with,” he notes.
EuroSTELLS Project Leader Cesare Galli, from the University of Bologna, Italy has high hopes that transplanted fat stem cells will restore injured sports horses to their former glory. “Our aim is to regenerate the tendon structure that does not repair spontaneously,” says Galli. Once scar tissue is formed, it hinders the animal’s recovery. “If you intervene, with cell transplants, within one week, you can repair the lesion,” Galli notes.
Like horses, humans are also vulnerable to joint injuries, and rehabilitations are long and costly. Now experience with horses is paving the way to cell therapies for sport-related tendon injuries in humans. Therapies using bone marrow stem cells, similar to fat stem cells, have achieved some successes, but the focus is shifting to fat, since the tissue is easier to access and extract than the bone marrow.
That fat-based methods work is not surprising, perhaps, because adipose tissue is closely related to bone, cartilage, muscle and other connective tissue. But some say it is impossible to re-programme adult cells to become nerve or liver cells, for example, without using embryos. Adult stem cells, such as those from fat, are thought to have more limited potential.
Collas insists that the transformation is possible. The hurdle lies not with the genes but with a cell’s epigenetic status, the subtle chemical modifications of DNA and its surrounding histone proteins. Epigenetic marks contribute to switching genes on and off, and stem cells rely on them heavily as they divide and mature. The Oslo team has found that low rates of DNA methylation, for instance, boost the chances of transforming fat stem cells from one cell type into another. “Look at a cell’s epigenetic profile,” says Collas, “and you may be able to predict what that cell is likely to turn into.”
These epigenetic signatures have grabbed everyone’s attention, acknowledges Ernest Arenas, a EuroSTELLS researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. “Scientists in the stem cell field are starting to realise that for cell manipulations to succeed they need to pay attention to their epigenetic marks. Cells can’t be pushed along to become a different cell type unless they start out with the right set of [epigenetic] conditions.”It is a complex area but one that is loaded with promise. “Everyone is talking about epigenetics,” says Collas. If he has his way, people may soon be visiting plastic surgeons not just for cosmetic reasons, but for therapy.
EuroSTELLS is the European Collaborative Research (EUROCORES) programme on “Development of a Stem Cell Tool Box” developed by the European Science Foundation.
Sofia Valleley | alfa
Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals
21.02.2018 | University of Chicago
The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally
21.02.2018 | Technische Universität München
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Life Sciences
21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences