Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cell memory loss enables the production of stem cells

15.12.2015

Scientists identify a molecular key that helps cells maintain identity and prevents the conversion of adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells

They say we can't escape our past--no matter how much we change, we still have the memory of what came before; the same can be said of our cells.


Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS cell) colonies were generated after researchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute suppressed the CAF1 gene.

Credit: Sihem Chaloufi

Adult cells, such as skin or blood cells, have a cellular "memory," or record of how the cell changes as it develops from an uncommitted embryonic cell into a specialized adult cell. Now, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in collaboration with scientists from the Research Institutes of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) and Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna have identified genes that when suppressed effectively erase a cell's memory, making the cell more susceptible to reprogramming and, consequently, making the process of reprogramming quicker and more efficient.

The study was recently published in Nature.

"We began this work because we wanted to know why a skin cell is a skin cell, and why does it not change its identity the next day, or the next month, or a year later?" said co-senior author Konrad Hochedlinger, PhD, an HSCI Principal Faculty member at MGH and Harvard's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and a world expert in cellular reprogramming.

Every cell in the human body has the same genome, or DNA blueprint, explained Hochedlinger, and it is how those genes are turned on and off during development that determines what kind of adult cell each will become. By manipulating those genes and introducing new factors, scientists can unlock dormant parts of an adult cell's genome and reprogram it into another cell type.

However, "a skin cell knows it is a skin cell," said IMBA's Josef Penninger, even after scientists reprogram those skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) - a process that would ideally require a cell to "forget" its identity before assuming a new one. Cellular memory is often conserved, acting as a roadblock to reprogramming. "We wanted to find out which factors stabilize this memory and what mechanism prevents iPS cells from forming," Penninger said.

To identify potential factors, the team established a genetic library targeting known chromatin regulators -- genes that control the packaging and bookmarking of DNA, and are involved in creating cellular memory.

Hochedlinger and Sihem Cheloufi, co-first author and a postdoc in Hochedlinger's lab, designed a screening approach that tested each of these factors.

Of the 615 factors screened, the researchers identified four chromatin regulators, three of which had not yet been described, as potential roadblocks to reprogramming. In comparison to the three to four fold increase seen by suppressing previously known roadblock factors, inhibiting the newly described CAF1 (chromatin assembly factor 1) made the process 50 to 200 fold more efficient. Moreover, in the absence of CAF1 reprogramming turned out to be much faster: While the process normally takes nine days, the researchers could detect the first iPS cell after four days.

"The CAF1 complex ensures that during DNA replication and cell division daughter cells keep their memory, which is encoded on the histones that the DNA is wrapped around," said Ulrich Elling, a co-first author from IMBA. "When we block CAF-1, daughter cells fail to wrap their DNA the same way, lose this information and covert into blank sheets of paper. In this state, they respond more sensitively to signals from the outside, meaning we can manipulate them much more easily."

By suppressing CAF-1 the researchers were also able to facilitate the conversion of one type of adult cell directly into another, skipping the intermediary step of forming iPS cells, via a process called direct reprogramming, or transdifferentiation. Thus, CAF-1 appears to act as a general guardian of cell identity whose depletion facilitates both the interconversion of one adult cell type to another as well as the conversion of specialized cells into iPS cells.

In finding CAF-1, the researchers identified a complex that allows cell memory to be erased and rewritten. "The cells forget who they are, making it easier to trick them into becoming another type of cell," said Sihem Cheloufi.

CAF-1 may provide a general key to facilitate the "reprogramming" of cells to model disease and test therapeutic agents, IMP's Johannes Zuber explained. "The best-case scenario," Zuber said, "is that with this insight, we hold a universal key in our hands that will allow us to model cells at will."

Media Contact

BD Colen
bd_colen@harvard.edu
617-495-7821

 @HarvardMed

http://hms.harvard.edu 

BD Colen | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: DNA Harvard cell type daughter cells iPS cells memory loss skin skin cell stem cells

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria
22.03.2019 | Harvard University

nachricht Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack
22.03.2019 | Rice University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>