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Scientists discover switch to speed up stem cell production
Date:5/18/2011

A team of scientists from Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) have shown how proteins involved in controlling genes work together to carry out their functions in stem cells and demonstrated for the very first time, how they can change interaction partners to make other types of cells. The work highlighted the collaborative nature of modern biology in which techniques and knowledge from bioinformatics analysis, structural biology, biochemistry and stem cell molecular biology were used together to find the specific amino acid within the protein that facilitated the molecular switch between stem cells and other types of cells. This discovery, published in the journal Stem Cells, has implications for generating stem cells more efficiently for biomedical applications and could help facilitate the development of treatments for diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease.

Dr Larry Stanton, Deputy Director for Research Affairs and Senior Group Leader of the Stem Cell and Developmental Biology department at GIS, together with Dr Prasanna Kolatkar, Dr Ralf Jauch, Dr Irene Aksoy and other colleagues from GIS, were able to take a protein, Sox17, which normally makes gut cells, and convert it into making stem cells by changing a single amino acid. Significantly, the "new" Sox17 protein was able to make stem cells at five times the normal rate. The scientists were also able to take Sox2, a protein that normally creates stem cells and a close relative of Sox17, and convert it into making gut cells.

Dr Larry Stanton, one of the co-leaders of the project, said, "This research is a modification of the old theory that there are few native transcription factors which can help to make induced pluripotent stem cells. We show that one can take a transcription factor without IPS cell forming activity and in fact make it much more potent."

Dr Prasanna Kola
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Contact: Prudence Yeo
yeojp@gis.a-star.edu.sg
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Source:Eurekalert

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