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

in the bone marrow and other tissues.

The team showed that Notch prevents stem cells from maturing. When the scientists activated the Notch pathway, the stem cells didn't progress as usual. Instead, they remained indefinitely in an immature state and did not go on to become bone cells, cartilage cells, or cells for connective tissue.

The team also settled a long-standing question, fingering the molecule RBPJ-kappa as the molecule through which Notch works in mesenchymal stem cells. That knowledge is crucial for scientists trying to understand precisely how Notch works in bone and cartilage development. A few years ago, Hilton was part of a team that showed that Notch is a critical regulator of the development of bone and cartilage. The latest study extends those observations, providing important details that suggest appropriate activation and manipulation of the Notch pathway may provide doctors with a tool to maintain and expand mesenchymal stem cells for use in treating disease.

The work is part of ongoing research around the world aimed at harnessing the promise of stem cells for human health. Unfortunately, stem cell therapy has been slow to actually make a difference in the lives of patients with problems of the bones and cartilage, Hilton notes, largely because so many questions are currently unanswered.

"To really make stem-cell medicine work, we need to understand where the stem cells have come from and how to get them to become the cell you want, when and where you want it. We are definitely in the infancy of learning how to manipulate stem cells and use them in treatment," said Hilton, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation.

"This research helps set the foundation for ultimately trying new therapies in patients," he added. "For instance, let's say a patient has a fracture that simply won't heal. The patient comes in and has a sample of bone marrow drawn. Their skeletal stem cells are isolated and
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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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