LA JOLLA, CA April 28, 2010 In findings that could one day lead to new therapies, researchers from The Scripps Research Institute have described some striking differences between the biochemistry of stem cells versus mature cells.
The study, led by Scripps Research Associate Professor Sheng Ding and Senior Director of the Scripps Research Center for Mass Spectrometry Gary Siuzdak, was published in an advance, online edition of the prestigious journal Nature Chemical Biology on May 2, 2010.
In the research, the team used a unique approach to better understand stem cells, which have the ability to change or "differentiate" into adult cell types (such as hair cells, skin cells, nerve cells). Understanding how stem cells mature opens the door for scientists and physicians to manipulate the process to meet the needs of patients, potentially treating such intractable conditions as Parkinson's disease and spinal injury.
"In the past, scientists trying to understand stem cell biology focused on genes and proteins," said Ding. "In our study, we looked at stem cell regulation in a different wayon the biochemical level, on a functional level. With metabolomics profiling, we were able to look at naturally occurring small molecules and how they control cell fate on a completely different level."
The new paper describes parts of the stem cell "metabolome" the complete set of substances ("metabolites") formed in metabolism, including all naturally occurring small molecules, biofluids, and tissues. The scientists then compared this profile to those of more mature cells, specifically of nerve cells and heart cells.
When the results were tallied, the scientists had found about 60 previously unidentified metabolites associated with the progression of stem cells to mature cells, as well as an unexpected pattern in the chemistry that mirrored the cells' increasing biological maturity.
Ripe for Discovery
|Contact: Keith McKeown|
Scripps Research Institute