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Promoting healing by keeping skeletal stem cells 'young'
Date:3/30/2010

Scientists seeking new ways to fight maladies ranging from arthritis and osteoporosis to broken bones that won't heal have cleared a formidable hurdle, pinpointing and controlling a key molecular player to keep stem cells in a sort of extended infancy. It's a step that makes treatment with the cells in the future more likely for patients.

Controlling and delaying development of the cells, known as mesenchymal (pronounced meh-ZINK-a-mill) stem cells, is a long-sought goal for researchers. It's a necessary step for doctors who would like to expand the number of true skeletal stem cells available for a procedure before the cells start becoming specific types of cells that may or may not be needed in a patient with, say, weak bones from osteoporosis, or an old knee injury.

"A big problem has been that these stem cells like to differentiate rapidly oftentimes too rapidly to make them very useful," said Matthew J. Hilton, Ph.D., the leader of the team at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "It's been very hard to get a useful number of stem cells that can still become any one of several types of tissue a patient might need. Having a large population of true skeletal stem cells available is a key consideration for new therapies, and that's been a real roadblock thus far."

In a study published online in the journal Development, Hilton's team discussed how it was able to increase the number and delay the development of stem cells that create bones, cartilage, muscle and fat. The first authors of the paper are Yufeng Dong, Ph.D., senior instructor, and technician Alana Jesse, who worked in Hilton's laboratory at the Center for Musculoskeletal Research.

Hilton's team showed in mice that a molecule called Notch, which is well known for the influence it wields on stem cells that form the blood and the nervous system, is a key factor in the development of mesenchymal stem cells, which make up a tiny fraction of the cells
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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