Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have found a new wrinkle in the developmental biology dogma that cell differentiation occurs irreversibly as stem cells give rise to increasingly specialized types of offspring cells. The researchers have shown that certain mouse cells retain an ability to oscillate between very distinct blood cell types -- B-cells and macrophages -- long after what has been commonly regarded as the point of no return.
These latest findings on the phenomenon sometimes referred to as "lineage promiscuity" appear on the Web site of the journal Blood and will be published in the journals print edition in March 2003.
"This work reveals that seemingly committed cells have more plasticity than we had thought," said senior author Andrei Thomas-Tikhonenko, assistant professor of pathobiology at Penn. "It appears there is at least a small window where terminally differentiated cells vacillate on which identity to adopt. We suspect that this phenomenon is not limited to B-cells and macrophages in mice."
Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
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