Research Report: Reprogramming cells leads to errorsBy Lynne Friedmann
Ethical issues concerning the use of embryonic stem cells is driving research efforts to reprogram mature body cells for use in regenerative medicine.
Now, researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies report that stem cells created from mature cells — called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) — retain a distinct “memory” of their former cell purpose. In addition, common reprogrammed errors were seen in the regions of telomeres and centromeres, structures that help direct how chromosomes divide.
Evidence that iPS cells did not revert completely to an embryonic state begs the question: Could this limit their therapeutic use? Further research is necessary to determine if iPS can substitute for embryonic stem cells or if reprogramming technology can be improved to erase cell memory. The findings appear in the journal Nature. More information at http://bit.ly/gpjuCu.
Skin cells to beating heart cells
A team of researchers from Scripps Research Institute and UCSD have converted adult skin cells directly into beating heart cells without having to first go through the time-intensive process of generating embryonic-like stem cells.
Instead of taking mouse skin cells all the way back to a stem-cell state — a process that can take two to four weeks — researchers initiated cell reprogramming, switched off gene activity after a few days, and then gave a signal to turn skin cells into beating heart cells in a lab dish in 11 days. Researchers hope the new method will overcome safety and other technical hurdles currently associated with some types of stem-cell therapies.
The work appears in the journal Nature Cell Biology. More information at http://bit.ly/e14gLq.
Different evolutionary paths; same destination
As different as they may seem, both mammalian and plant cells need to be able to perceive small molecule hormones in order to respond to changes in the environment. In analyzing the molecular sensor for a plant growth hormone, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have discovered that plants and animals took different evolutionary pathways to arrive at similar solutions for receiving and processing incoming signals.
The study provides the first documented example in plants of a particular “on” or “off” switch long through to be unique to animal cells. By defining common features in plant and animal receptor signaling pathways, the Salk researchers hope to learn more about the requirements for a robust signaling system.
Findings are published in the journal Genes and Development. More information at http://bit.ly/ffqKwE.
Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.
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