RUB biologists have deliberately transformed stem cells from the spinal cord of mice into immature nerve cells. This was achieved by changing the cellular environment, known as the extracellular matrix, using the substance sodium chlorate. Via sugar side chains, the extracellular matrix determines which cell type a stem cell can generate.
The RUB researchers converted neural stem cells from the spinal cord of the mouse into nerve cells; one cell is shown here. The main projection of the nerve cell, the axon is coloured green, other projections, the dendrites, red. Nuclei are shown in blue in the illustration.
Image: Michael Karus
“Influencing precursor cells pharmacologically so that they transform into a particular type of cell can help in cell replacement therapies in future” says Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, head of the Molecular Cell Biology work group. “Therapies, for example, for Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis could then become more efficient.” The team describes its findings in Neural Development.
Sulphate determines the fate of stem cells
Sodium chlorate acts on metabolism enzymes in the cell which attach sulphate groups to proteins. If these sulphates are not installed, the cell continues to form proteins for the extracellular matrix, but with modified sugar side chains. These chains in turn send out signals that define the fate of the stem cells. Stem cells can not only develop into nerve cells, but also form astrocytes or oligodendrocytes, which are, for instance, responsible for the mineral balance of the nerve cells or which form their insulation layer. What happens to the stem cells if the sulphate pattern is changed by sodium chlorate was examined by Dr. Michael Karus and his colleagues.
Positive side effects: nerve cells remain immature
The RUB-laboratories of Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, Prof. Dr. Andreas Faissner and Prof. Dr. Irmgard Dietzel-Meyer collaborated for the study. Using antibodies, the researchers showed that cells which they had treated with sodium chlorate developed into nerve cells. They also analysed the flow of sodium ions into the cells. The result: treated cells showed a lower sodium current than mature nerve cells. Sodium chlorate thus favours the development of stem cells into nerve cells, but, at the same time, also inhibits the maturation - a positive side effect, as Wiese explains: “If sodium chlorate stops the nerve cells in an early developmental phase, this could enable them to integrate into the nervous system following a transplant better than mature nerve cells would do.”
M. Karus, S. Samtleben, C. Busse, T. Tsai, I.D. Dietzel, A. Faissner, S. Wiese (2012): Normal sulphation levels regulate spinal cord neural precursor cell proliferation and differentiation, Neural Development, doi:10.1186/1749-8104-7-20
Further informationProf. Dr. Stefan Wiese, Molecular Cell Biology Work Group, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-22041
Editor: Dr. Julia Weiler
Dr. Josef König | idw
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