Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scripps Research team provides groundbreaking new understanding of stem cells

03.05.2010
The surprising biochemical findings may improve scientists' ability to manipulate cell fate and promote healing

In findings that could one day lead to new therapies, researchers from The Scripps Research Institute have described some striking differences between the biochemistry of stem cells versus mature cells.

The study, led by Scripps Research Associate Professor Sheng Ding and Senior Director of the Scripps Research Center for Mass Spectrometry Gary Siuzdak, was published in an advance, online edition of the prestigious journal Nature Chemical Biology on May 2, 2010.

In the research, the team used a unique approach to better understand stem cells, which have the ability to change or "differentiate" into adult cell types (such as hair cells, skin cells, nerve cells). Understanding how stem cells mature opens the door for scientists and physicians to manipulate the process to meet the needs of patients, potentially treating such intractable conditions as Parkinson's disease and spinal injury.

"In the past, scientists trying to understand stem cell biology focused on genes and proteins," said Ding. "In our study, we looked at stem cell regulation in a different way—on the biochemical level, on a functional level. With metabolomics profiling, we were able to look at naturally occurring small molecules and how they control cell fate on a completely different level."

The new paper describes parts of the stem cell "metabolome"— the complete set of substances ("metabolites") formed in metabolism, including all naturally occurring small molecules, biofluids, and tissues. The scientists then compared this profile to those of more mature cells, specifically of nerve cells and heart cells.

When the results were tallied, the scientists had found about 60 previously unidentified metabolites associated with the progression of stem cells to mature cells, as well as an unexpected pattern in the chemistry that mirrored the cells' increasing biological maturity.

Ripe for Discovery

The study of metabolomics is relatively new, having emerged only over the past decade or so.

"One of the most interesting aspects of metabolomics is how little we know," commented Siuzdak. "We don't know what the vast majority of metabolites are, or what they do. It is an area ripe for discovery."

Research in metabolomics is made possible by a variety of special techniques and equipment. In the current study, the team used liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS), which draws on two more traditional techniques to provide scientists with the ability to chemically analyze virtually any molecular species. The group then analyzed the resulting data using an open-access bioinformatics platform XCMS, a now-popular technique developed by Siuzdak and colleagues described in a 2006 article in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The XCMS software allows researchers to identify and assess metabolite and peptide features that show significant change between sample groups—in this case mouse stem cells versus mature cells.

The most difficult part of untargeted metabolomics studies is analyzing the results and characterizing metabolites, according to Research Associate Oscar Yanes of the Siuzdak lab, the new paper's first author.

Nevertheless, Yanes shifted though the data on stem cells and identified an unexpected pattern: stem cell metabolites had highly unsaturated structures compared with mature cells, and levels of highly unsaturated molecules decreased as the stem cells matured. Highly unsaturated molecules, which contain little hydrogen, can easily react and change into many other different types of molecules.

"The study reveals an astounding cellular strategy," commented Yanes. "The capacity of embryonic stem cells to generate a whole spectrum of cell types characteristic of different tissues (a phenomenon referred to as plasticity) is mirrored at the metabolic level."

"We were not expecting these results," said Siuzdak, "although in retrospect it makes sense that stem cells (which can form almost any cell) have metabolites that are chemically flexible."

Confirming their observations, the researchers found that by chemically blocking the usual route to saturation—oxidation—they were able to prevent stem cells' normal progress into mature heart and nerve cells. Conversely, when specific oxidized metabolites were introduced into the culture, stem cell differentiation was promoted.

Ding notes the study also provides a new perspective on fatty acids similar to those found in fish oil and other nutriceuticals.

"In the past, people focused on the fact that fatty acids were important to create cell membranes, the scaffolding of our cells," said Ding. "But in our study, we show that different fatty acids don't just play a role in constituting cell membranes, but also have functions in directing cell fate."

In addition to Siuzdak, Ding, and Yanes, authors of the paper, "Metabolic oxidation regulates embryonic stem cell differentiation," are Julie Clark, Diana M Wong, Gary J Patti, Antonio Sanchez-Ruiz, H Paul Benton, Sunia A Trauger, and Caroline Desponts, all of Scripps Research.

This study was supported by grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, National Cancer Institute, and the National Institutes of Health, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship from Fundación Ramón Areces.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Research is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It also includes Scripps Florida, whose researchers focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Scripps Florida is located in Jupiter, Florida.

Keith McKeown | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.scripps.edu

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>