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Trio of signals converge to induce liver and pancreas cell development in the embryo
Date:6/26/2009

PHILADELPHIA - Understanding the molecular signals that guide early cells in the embryo to develop into different organs provides insight into ways that tissues regenerate and how stem cells can be used for new therapies. With regenerated cells, researchers hope to one day fill the acute shortage in pancreatic and liver tissue available for transplantation in cases of type I diabetes and acute liver failure.

Previous studies on pancreas and liver development have focused on individual molecular signals that induce these tissues to mature from a common precursor cell population. In a new study, published this week in Science, researchers investigated a trio of cell-signaling pathways that work simultaneously, converging to direct pancreas and liver progenitor cells to mature into their final state. They looked at how BMP, TGF-beta, and FGF signaling pathways turn on genes that guide cells to ultimately become pancreas or liver tissue.

The structure of the cell-signaling network provides insight into the basis of tissue development and how it can be manipulated to facilitate pancreas and liver-cell regeneration and development from embryonic stem cells.

"For my entire scientific life, I've been intrigued by how cells early in development make 'decisions' to turn on one genetic program and exclude others," says Kenneth S. Zaret, PhD, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Associate Director, Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

The work was conducted while Zaret and co-author Ewa Wandzioch, PhD, Research Associate in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, were at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

How the developing embryo starts to apportion different functions to different cell types is a key question for developmental biology and regenerative medicine.

Guidance along the correct path is provided by genetic regulat
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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