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Proteins that control energy use necessary to form stem cells
Date:3/20/2014

Proteins that regulate energy metabolism are essential for stem cell formation, University of Washington researchers find.

Two proteins that control how cells metabolize glucose play a key role in the formation of human stem cells, UW researchers report.

The findings advance scientists' understanding of stem cell development but also suggest that the proteins, which also play a role in the process that transforms normal cells into cancer stem cells, might also be targets for new cancer therapies, the researchers write.

The findings appear online in the journal Cell Stem Cell. The paper's lead authors are Julie Mathieu, a post-doctoral fellow at the UW and Wenyu Zhou who was a graduate student at UW and is now a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University, Department of Genetics. Dr. Hannele Ruohola-Baker, UW professor of biochemistry, is the paper's senior author.

In the study, the researchers induced mature human tissue fibroblasts to revert to an earlier stem cell-like state by inserting genes for four proteins, a process called reprogramming.

These reprogrammed cells have the extraordinary ability to develop into any type of cell in the human body, a capacity called pluripotency, and it is hoped that induced-pluripotent stem cells will one day be able to be used to create new tissues and organs to repair and replace those damaged by injury and disease.

Researches have known for some time that during reprogramming, cells must go through a stage in which they shut down metabolic pathway that they use to generate energy from glucose that requires the presence of oxygen in mitochondria, the cell's powerhouse and shift over to another pathway, called the glycolytic pathway, that generates less energy but does not require the presence of oxygen.

This shift may take place because in nature, embryonic and tissue stem cells often must survive in low-oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions.

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Contact: Kim Blakeley
krb13@uw.edu
206-685-1323
University of Washington - Health Sciences/UW News, Community Relations & Marketing
Source:Eurekalert  

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