Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research may hold key to maintaining embryonic stem cells in lab

13.07.2009
In a new study that could transform embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research, scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered why mouse ES cells can be easily grown in a laboratory while other mammalian ES cells are difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

If the findings in mice can be applied to other animals, scientists could have an entirely new palette of research tools to work with, said Dr. Steven McKnight, chairman of biochemistry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study appearing in the July 9 issue of Science Express.

"This might change the way medical research is done. But it's still a big 'if,'" he said.

According to the research, the activation of a gene called TDH in mouse ES cells results in the cells entering a unique metabolic state that is similar to that of rapidly growing bacterial cells. The gene controls the production of the threonine dehydrogenase (TDH) enzyme in mouse ES cells. This enzyme breaks down an amino acid called threonine into two products. One of the two products goes on to control a cellular process called one carbon metabolism; the other provides ES cells with an essential metabolic fuel.

Both of the threonine breakdown products are necessary to keep the ES cells growing and dividing rapidly in a petri dish without differentiating into specific tissues.

The various substances currently used by scientists to keep mouse ES cells alive in the laboratory were found by trying many different combinations until something worked, Dr. McKnight said. But until now, it wasn't known that these culture conditions keyed into keeping the TDH gene actively expressed.

"Scientists added this and that until they got the right 'soup,' one that works in the mouse ES cells to somehow activate the TDH gene," he said, adding that exactly how that gene is regulated is still unknown.

Other mammalian species have a functional version of the TDH gene, suggesting the possibility that the process could also be activated in them.

"You would think that the 'mouse soup' would then work for all species, but it doesn't. Researchers have been trying for 20 years to get the right formula for maintaining ES cells from other species. With few exceptions, however, they still haven't gotten it right," Dr. McKnight said.

The research was funded by a National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award, which Dr. McKnight received in 2004. The program encourages investigators to take on creative, unexplored avenues of research that carry a relatively high potential for failure but that also possess a greater chance for truly groundbreaking discoveries.

"By applying a highly innovative technique to manipulate the TDH gene, McKnight's work could be an important breakthrough with a profound impact on future research," said Dr. Raynard S. Kington, acting director of the NIH. "This research, which was partially funded by our Pioneer Award program, shows the value of supporting exceptionally creative approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research."

Embryonic stem cells are "blank slate" cells – derived from embryos – that go on to develop into any of the more than 200 types of cells in the adult body.

Because mouse ES cells are easily maintained in the lab, they can be manipulated genetically to produce adult mice in which various genes are either modified or eliminated. So-called "knockout mice" allow scientists to study the genetic aspects of many diseases and conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and paralysis.

In the living mouse, and in other species, ES cells exist for only a short time. In that time, they need to grow rapidly in order to accumulate enough cells to begin the process of differentiating into all the body's cell types. Dr. McKnight hypothesizes that the TDH gene tightly controls this process in the animal, allowing the ES cells to grow, but then it shuts off when it's time to differentiate.

"If we can tweak conditions and determine how to keep the gene turned on in other animals, we might be able to grow and maintain ES cells for study in many species. It's still speculative at this point whether it will work, but if it does, then this may prove to represent a transformational discovery," Dr. McKnight said.

Interestingly, although humans carry a form of the TDH gene, it contains three inactivating mutations. As such, human ES cells do not produce the TDH enzyme.

"In the human embryo, something else is taking the place of this TDH-mediated form of rapid cell growth," Dr. McKnight said. "Human ES cells may exist in a unique metabolic state, but it would not appear to involve threonine breakdown."

Human ES cells grow slowly and are difficult to maintain in the laboratory, which is a huge impediment to this field of study, Dr. McKnight said.

"If scientists could repair the mutated human TDH gene and replace it into human ES cells, could they make those cells grow faster in culture? I don't know whether this will work or not – it's highly speculative. But if so, it would be profound," he said.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the study were lead author Dr. Jian Wang, postdoctoral researcher in biochemistry; Peter Alexander, graduate student in biochemistry; Leeju Wu, senior research scientist in biochemistry; Dr. Robert Hammer, professor of biochemistry; and Dr. Ondine Cleaver, assistant professor of molecular biology.

This news release is available on our World Wide Web home page at www.utsouthwestern.edu/home/news/index.html

To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail, subscribe at www.utsouthwestern.edu/receivenews

Dr. Steven McKnight -- http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,14812,00.html

Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utsouthwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>