Modulating stem cell function
A protein discovery could control the behavior of blood-forming stem cells used in disease treatments.
Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Stem Cell Biology announced researchers determined that a protein known to regulate cellular metabolism is also necessary for normal cell division in blood-forming stem cells.
- Loss of the protein results in an abnormal number of chromosomes and a high rate of cell death;
- That finding demonstrates that stem cells are metabolically different from other blood-forming cells, which can divide without the protein, Lkb1.
This raises the possibility that, in the future, researchers may be able to modulate stem cell function when treating degenerative diseases or when performing cell therapies by altering the metabolism of the cells.
- Few studies have examined stem cell metabolism. Morrison’s team deleted the two genes in blood-forming stem cells of mice — the first time these genes have been “knocked out” in stem cells — then observed and measured the effects.