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USC researcher reveals how to better master stem cells' fate
Date:10/24/2013

USC scientist Qi-Long Ying and a team of researchers have long been searching for biotech's version of the fountain of youth ways to encourage embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) to endlessly self-renew, or divide to produce more stem cells.

In a pair of studies published in Nature Communications in September and in The EMBO Journal in August, Ying and his team revealed some of the ways that ESCs and EpiSCs retain their pluripotency, or ability to differentiate into virtually any kind of cell.

The study in Nature Communications identified a novel way of culturing human ESCs by focusing on the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway a group of molecules that work together to control various cell functions, including some related to embryonic development.

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(Illustration by Qing Liu-Michael)

According to the researchers, this pathway can prompt mouse EpiSCs and human ESCs to either self-renew or differentiate. When the protein beta-catenin remains within the cell cytoplasm but outside of the nucleus, the stem cell continues to self-renew. When beta-catenin moves into a stem cell's nucleus, differentiation begins.

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(Illustration by Qing Liu-Michael)

The paper published in The EMBO Journal addresses mouse ESCs, which are derived from the embryo at an earlier stage and are more pluripotent than mouse EpiSCs.

The study revealed the important role of Tfcp2l1 a transcription factor, or protein that controls which genes are turned on and off in a cell.

In mice, Tfcp2l1 helps communicate to ESCs that they should self-renew. The transcription factor also shows promise for "rewinding" slightly more differentiated EpiSCs into the more nave ESC state.

By learning more about the ESC and EpiSC playbooks, Ying and his colleagues can better control stem cell self-renewal, offering hope for patients with currently untreatab
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Contact: Cristy Lytal
lytal@med.usc.edu
University of Southern California - Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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