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Cell microenvironments hold key to future stem cell therapies
Date:2/27/2009

Adult stem cells and their more committed kin, progenitor cells, are prized by medical researchers for their ability to produce different types of specialized cells. The potential of using these cells to repair or replace damaged tissue holds great promise for cancer therapies and regenerative medicine. However, the question that must first be answered is what determines the ultimate fate of a stem or progenitor cell? A team of researchers led by Berkeley Lab's Mark LaBarge and Mina Bissell appear to be well on the road to finding out.

Working with unique microenvironment microarrays (MEArrays) of their own creation, LaBarge and Bissell and their collaborators have shown that the ultimate fate of a stem or progenitor cell in a woman's breast whether the cell develops normally or whether it turns cancerous may depend upon signals from multiple microenvironments.

"We found that adult human mammary stem and progenitor cells exhibit impressive plasticity in response to hundreds of unique combinatorial microenvironments," said LaBarge, a cell and molecular biologist in Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division. "Our results further suggest that rational modulation of the microenvironmental milieu can impose specific differentiation phenotypes on normal stem or progenitor cells, and perhaps even impose phenotypically normal behavior on malignant cells during tissue genesis. All of this points to the rational manipulation of adult stem and progenitor cells as a promising pathway for beneficial therapies."

Previous studies on how microenvironments affect the development of adult human stem or progenitor cells have been based on the behavior of these cells in culture (in vitro) where they are exposed to a single molecular agent. However, when these cells are in an actual human being (in vivo) they are surrounded by a multitude of other cells plus a supporting network of fibrous and globular proteins called the extracellular matrix (ECM)
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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