The glyco niche is one aspect of the entire niche or environment that surrounds each stem cell. Understanding exactly what comprises this specific niche could be the key to controlling the development of stem cells in the body and preventing them from maturing into potentially dangerous cell types, Linhardt said.
Linhardt has already determined that the carbohydrate structure surrounding an embryonic stem cell gets much larger and more complex as the cell matures. With this funding, the team will now analyze human embryonic stem cells throughout their growth to map how exactly the structure of the glyco niche changes as they mature. They will then determine if the function of the stem cell can be controlled by simply modifying its surrounding glyco niche using a range of new technologies that delve into molecular level changes that take place within the stem cells as they grow, including a cell-based, high-throughput microarray technology developed in the Dordick lab.
Genetic Control of Stem Cells
Ferland's lab will delve into the interior of the cell to understand how specific genes control stem cell function. He will partner with Volney Sheen at Harvard Medical School on the research.
Ferland is particularly interested in two classes of genes known as filamins and formins. These genes have been shown to be very important in controlling the formation of both brain and bone stem cells. Mutation of these genes results in abnormal stem cell growth leading to nodules in the neurons of the brain, a condition known as periventricular heterotopia and a progressive shortening of bones known as skeletal chondrodysplasias. These genetic disorders, although rare in humans, provide important insight into how stem cells grow and change during our development, a
|Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco|
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute