Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Vitamin C helps control gene activity in stem cells

02.07.2013
UCSF-led research finding relevant to cancer, in vitro fertilization
Vitamin C affects whether genes are switched on or off inside mouse stem cells, and may thereby play a previously unknown and fundamental role in helping to guide normal development in mice, humans and other animals, a scientific team led by UC San Francisco researchers has discovered.

The researchers found that vitamin C assists enzymes that play a crucial role in releasing the brakes that keep certain genes from becoming activated in the embryo soon after fertilization, when egg and sperm fuse.

The discovery might eventually lead to the use of vitamin C to improve results of in vitro fertilization, in which early embryos now are typically grown without the vitamin, and also to treat cancer, in which tumor cells abnormally engage or release these brakes on gene activation, the researchers concluded in a study published June 30, 2013 in the journal Nature.

In the near term, stem-cell scientists may begin incorporating vitamin C more systematically into their procedures for growing the most healthy and useful stem cells, according to UCSF stem-cell scientist Miguel Ramalho-Santos, PhD, who led the study. In fact, the unanticipated discovery emerged from an effort to compare different formulations of the growth medium, a kind of nutrient broth used to grow mouse embryonic stem cells in the lab.

Rather than building on any previous body of scientific work, the identification of the link between vitamin C and the activation of genes that should be turned on in early development was serendipitous, Ramalho-Santos said. “We bumped into this result,” he said.

Working in Ramalho-Santos’ lab, graduate student Kathryn Blaschke and postdoctoral fellow Kevin Ebata, PhD, were comparing different commercial growth media for mouse stem cells. The researchers began exploring how certain ingredients altered gene activity within the stem cells. Eventually they discovered that adding vitamin C led to increased activity of key enzymes that release the brakes that can prevent activation of an array of genes.

The brakes on gene activation that vitamin C helps release are molecules called methyl groups. These methyl groups are added to DNA at specific points along the genome to prevent specific genes from getting turned on.

During the development of multicellular organisms, humans among them, different patterns of methylation arise in different cells as methyl groups are biochemically attached to DNA at specific points along the genome during successive cell divisions. Normally this gradual methylation, a key part of the developmental program, is not reversible.

But after fertilization and during early development, a class of enzymes called “Tet” acts on a wide array of the methyl groups on the DNA to remove these brakes, so that genes can be activated as needed.

The UCSF researchers demonstrated that Tet enzymes require vitamin C for optimal activity as they act to remove the methyl groups from the DNA and to stimulate gene activity that more faithfully mimics in cultured stem cells what occurs at early stages of development in the mouse embryo.
“Potential roles for vitamin C in the clinic — including in embryo culture media used during in vitro fertilization, which currently do not contain vitamin C, and in cancers driven by aberrant DNA methylation — deserve exploration,” Ramalho-Santos, said.

In addition, scientists previously have found that many adult tissues also have stem cells, which can generate a variety of cell types found within a specific tissue. This raises the possibility that vitamin C might help maintain healthy stem cell populations in the adult, according to Ramalho-Santos.

“Although we did not in this paper address the function of Vitamin C in adult tissues, given the roles that Tet enzymes are now known to play in adult tissues, we anticipate that Vitamin C might also regulate Tet function in the adult,” Ramalho-Santos said. “This remains to be determined.”

Vitamin C already has become a popular supplement in recent decades, and potential health benefits of vitamin C supplementation continue to be investigated in clinical trials. It has been more than 80 years since vitamin C was first recognized as vital to prevent scurvy, a now rare connective-tissue disease caused by the failure of another enzyme that also relies on vitamin C.
The function of vitamin C as an antioxidant to prevent chemical damage is the likely reason why some commercial suppliers of growth media have included it in their products, Ramalho-Santos said, but other antioxidant molecules cannot replace Vitamin C in the enhancement of the activity of Tet enzymes.

Despite its importance, humans, unlike most animals and plants, cannot synthesize their own Vitamin C and must obtain it through their diet. The mouse makes vitamin C, but that fact does not diminish the expectation that the new findings will also apply to human development, according to Ramalho-Santos. Only adult liver cells in the mouse make vitamin C, he said.
Ramalho-Santos now aims to explore the newly discovered phenomenon in the living mouse. “The next step is to study vitamin C and gene expression in vivo,” he said.

The UCSF group led a team effort that included researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, California. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Jeffrey Norris | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsf.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond
21.11.2017 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht The main switch
21.11.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

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....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

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...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

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...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond

21.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>