At the same time, the mechanism represses the genes required for differentiationthe process whereby by a stem cell loses "stemness" and becomes a specific cell type that makes up an organ or performs a function.
As well, in collaboration with colleagues including Profs. Jeff Wrana and Andras Nagy in the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital, also Professors in U of T's Department of Molecular Genetics, the splicing switch identified by Blencowe's team was shown to play a role in "reprogramming," a potentially therapeutic technique in which researchers coax adult cells back into induced pluripotent stem cells by introducing the core transcription factors. "That's an important area in the field where we need better understanding because reprogramming, especially with human cells, is very inefficient," said Blencowe. "Often when reprogrammed stem cells are not fully reprogrammed they become tumorigenic and can lead to cancer."
Potential applications for stem-cell science include growing cells and tissues to test new drugs or to repair or replace damaged tissues in many diseases and conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's disease.
As well, a better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate pluripotency, cell division and differentiation will provide knowledge of how diseases like cancer arise and suggest more targeted therapeutic approaches.
Blencowe and his lab have recently turned their attention to what might be controlling the factors that control both alternative splicing and the maintenance of stem-cell pluripotency. They have, said Blencowe, a few tantalizing glimpses. "There's still a lot to figure out, but I personally believe there is huge potential in the future. If we can fully understand the regulatory controls that allo
|Contact: Jim Oldfield|
University of Toronto