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Study finds that cancer-causing gene crucial in stem cell development
Date:9/2/2010

cells differentiate into more specific cell types. In the new research, Dalton's team showed that Myc sustains the important pluripotency process by repressing a "master regulator" gene called GATA6.

"Pluripotency is the inherent property of a cell to create all cell types, from an embryo to an adult organism," said Dalton. "It's an extremely important biological process, and knowing how it is controlled is crucial not only from a basic developmental perspective but also so that we can harness the potential of stem cells for the development of therapies, including those for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a range of neurological disorders. Through a detailed understanding of early development, we hope to apply this information so that pluripotent stem cells can be differentiated into therapeutically useful cell types. These cells can then be used in a clinical setting to cure degenerative diseases and treat acute injury."

The finding that Myc inhibits GATA6 came as a big surprise to the Dalton team and points out that researchers have only seen the tip of the "molecular iceberg" in terms of what Myc does in stem cells. It now seems likely that understanding Myc's role in further detail will reshape current ideas about the basic biology of stem cells.

Dalton's new work addressed the uncertainty about how Myc maintains the pluripotency of stem cells by examining what happens when two forms of Mycc-Myc and N-Mycare inactivated in pluripotent stem cells. What he found was that either c- or N-Myc is sufficient to maintain pluripotency, but that the absence of both triggers the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells. Myc is therefore acting as a "brake" to restrain differentiation. When the "differentiation brake" is removed, cells lose their stem cell properties, and, potentially, they can become any one of over a hundred different cell types.

Pluripotent stem cells can now be made from skin fibroblasts and even from blood sa
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Contact: Stephen Dalton
sdalton@uga.edu
706-542-9857
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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