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Researchers at UC Riverside find solution to cell death problem vexing stem cell research
Date:9/7/2010

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Human pluripotent stem (hPS) cells can generate any given cell type in the adult human body, which is why they are of interest to stem cell scientists working on finding therapies for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease, burns, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and other ailments.

Before hPS cell technologies can be translated into clinical applications, however, some obstacles must first be overcome.

One such obstacle frustrating stem cell researchers is "cell death" that the major types of hPS cells, including human embryonic stem cells and human induced pluripotent stem cells, mysteriously undergo when cultured as single cells, rendering them less suitable for research.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside now show that a molecular motor, called "nonmuscle myosin II" (NMII), which exists naturally inside each hPS cell and controls various cellular functions, triggers the death of hPS cells when they are broken down to single cells.

While many details of how exactly NMII works remain unknown, a wide consensus among researchers is that NMII induces a contraction of the main internal components of the cells, eventually resulting in cell death.

To stop this cell death, the researchers treated hPS cells with a chemically synthesized compound, blebbistatin, and found that it substantially enhanced the survival of the cells by chemically inhibiting NMII. (Blebbistatin is commercially available from several companies that sell biologically active chemical compounds.)

"Our research shows that blebbistatin works as effectively as the most potent cell death inhibitor of hPS cells available today," said Noboru Sato, an assistant professor of biochemistry, whose lab led the research. "This discovery brings stem cell research a step closer towards finding therapies for several diseases."

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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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