HOUSTON -- (May 6, 2010) -- With thousands of scientists across the globe searching for ways to use adult stem cells to fight disease, there's a growing emphasis on finding the "master regulators" that guide the differentiation of stem cells. New research from Rice University and the University of Cambridge suggests that a closely connected trio of regulatory proteins fulfills that role in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), the self-renewing cells the body uses to make new blood cells.
The results appear today in the online journal PLoS Computational Biology. Working with experimentalists at Cambridge, Rice bioengineers Oleg Igoshin and Jatin Narula created a computer model that accurately describes the observed behavior of the three regulatory proteins that are collectively known as the "Scl-Gata2-Fli1 triad."
"We don't yet have the experimental verification that this is the master-level regulator for HSCs, but based on our model, we can say that it has all the properties that we would expect to find in a master-level regulator," said Igoshin, an assistant professor in bioengineering at Rice.
All plants and animals have stem cells, a constantly replenished feedstock of unspecialized progenitor cells that have the ability to become any of several specialized types of cell. An HSC is a type of adult stem cell that forms new blood cells. In a healthy human adult, HSCs are used to form about 100 billion new white and red blood cells each day.
But HSCs also need to be able to self-renew, or make the additional stem cells needed to replenish the body's supply. Self-renewal becomes particularly important after significant blood loss through injury or when patients receive bone marrow transplants.
Igoshin and Narula, a graduate student, worked with experimentalists Aileen Smith and Berthold Gottgens at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research to create a mathematical model that accurately describes the complex in
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