La Jolla ---- Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that tells cells to develop multiple cilia, tiny hair-like structures that move fluids through the lungs and brain. The finding may help scientists generate new therapies that use stem cells to replace damaged tissues in the lung and other organs.
"Cells with multiple cilia play a number of important roles, including moving fluids through the respiratory tract, brain and spinal cord," says Christopher R. Kintner, a professor in Salk's Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, who led the research. "Knowing the gene that instructs cells to develop multiple cilia helps us understand how we might coax stem cells into developing into this type of cell, which we could then use to repair damaged tissue."
The findings of the research, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health and Salk's Innovation Grants Program, were published in the January 8 online issue of Nature Cell Biology.
Kintner and his collaborator, Jennifer Stubbs, a scientist now at Pathway Genomics, a San Diego biotech company, along with Eszter Vladar, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Jeffery Axelrod, at the Stanford University School of Medicine, made their discovery by initially studying the embryos of African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis).
Multiciliate cells form on the outside of the embryos, making them easy to study, and the genetic mechanisms that direct the frog cells to develop multiple cilia are likely similar to those of humans.
Humans and other organisms inherited cilia from our single-celled primordial ancestors that used these beating structures as a form of propulsion. Most cells in our body project a single, non-moving cilium used as a tiny antenna for detecting chemical and physical stimuli. But certain specialized tissues require cells with 100 to 200 moving cilia that beat in concert to move fluids through the body.
|Contact: Andy Hoang|