The mechanism whereby embryonic cells stop being flexible and turn into more mature cells that can develop into specific tissues has been discovered by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The discovery has significant consequences towards furthering research that will eventually make possible medical cell replacement therapy based on the use of embryonic cells.
At a very early stage of human development, all cells of the embryo are identical, but unlike adult cells are very flexible and carry within them the potential to become any tissue type, whether it be muscle, skin, liver or brain.
This cell differentiation process begins at about the time that the embryo settles into the uterus. In terms of the inner workings of the cell, this involves two main control mechanisms. On the one hand, the genes that keep the embryo in their fully potent state are turned off, and at the same time, tissue-specific genes are turned on. By activating a certain set of genes, the embryo can make muscle cells. By turning on a different set, these same immature cells can become liver. Other gene sets are responsible for additional tissues.
In a recent paper, published in the journal, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, Professors Yehudit Bergman and Howard Cedar of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School have deciphered the mechanism whereby embryonic cells stop being flexible and turn into more mature cells that can differentiate into specific tissues. Bergman is the Morley Goldblatt Professor of Cancer Research and Experimental Medicine and Cedar is the Harry and Helen L. Brenner Professor of Molecular Biology at the Medical School.
They found in their experiments, using embryos from laboratory mice and cells that grow in culture, that this entire process is actually controlled by a single gene, called G9a, which itself is capable of directing a whole program of changes that involves turning off a large set of genes so that they remain locked for the entire lifetime of the organism, thereby unable to activate any further cell flexibility.
Their studies shed light not only on this central process, but also can have consequences for medical treatment. One of the biggest challenges today is to generate new tissues for replacing damaged cells in a variety of different diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or diabetes. Many efforts have been aimed at “reprogramming” readily-available adult cells, but scientists have discovered that it is almost impossible to do this, mainly because normal tissues are locked in their fixed program and have lost their ability to convert back to fully potent, flexible, embryonic cells.
Now, with the new information discovered by Bergman and Cedar, the molecular program that is responsible for turning off cell flexibility has been identified, and this may clear the way towards developing new approaches to program cells in a controlled and specific manner.
Jerry Barach | Hebrew University
Switch-in-a-cell electrifies life
18.12.2018 | Rice University
Plant biologists identify mechanism behind transition from insect to wind pollination
18.12.2018 | University of Toronto
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy