MAY 10, 2019 3:08 PM PDT

Advances in Stem Cell Research

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Stem cells were recognized for their tremendous potential many years ago; they can develop into virtually any type of cell type and are critical in development. They could also revolutionize therapeutics and regenerative medicine. But obtaining the cells presented ethical challenges. Several years ago, a Nobel-prize-winning procedure was developed that used genetic tweaks to generate pluripotent stem cells from adult skin cells. Now that process has been further refined by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) and published in Cell Reports. In another study, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) have been able to create the three main types of cells that early embryos are made of from skin cells.

These are 4-cell stage mouse embryos. / Credit: Kirill Makedonski

The work done at WID can help be tremendously helpful to researchers using stem cells to model and research disease. Current methods are only reprogramming about five percent of the cells that are put through the process. The new study outlines a streamlined protocol for reprogramming cells in the lab, and the scientists have also learned more about what happens to cells as they transition to different cell types. 

"The cells undergoing reprogramming do not have to do so in a stepwise manner," noted the Cell Reports study author and graduate candidate Zafirah Zaidan. That finding is contrary to what has been assumed. The researchers used transcriptomic sequencing at the single-cell level (single-cell RNA-seq or scRNA-seq), which is like taking a snapshot of all the genes that are being expressed in one cell at one time point.

"scRNA-seq is revolutionizing biology and is opening up a lot of opportunities to gain a high-resolution view of gene regulatory networks," said Cell Reports study co-author Sushmita Roy, a professor of biostatistics and medical informatics at WID. "There is a lot of room to develop the right type of computational tools to fully unlock the potential of these single-cell RNA-seq datasets."

Reporting in Cell Stem Cell, Dr. Yossi Buganim of HU's Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research and a team of researchers identified a group of five genes that can transform mouse skin cells into three types of cells that are found in developing mouse embryos. The process takes about one month. This work can help scientists learn more about embryonic diseases and placental disorders. 

Sources: Phys.org via University of Wisconsin-Madison, AAAS/Eurekalert! via The Hebrew University, Cell Reports, Cell Stem Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 09, 2020
Microbiology
Changing How We Think of Drug Resistance in Fungi
SEP 09, 2020
Changing How We Think of Drug Resistance in Fungi
It's been estimated that fungal infections cause more than one million deaths worldwide, and many more are affected.
OCT 01, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Signaling Waves Help Guide Cells to Heal Wounds
OCT 01, 2020
Signaling Waves Help Guide Cells to Heal Wounds
During development and throughout our lives, cells have to 'know' where to go to form the right structures and properly ...
OCT 09, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Proteins Have an Orientation in Plant Cells
OCT 09, 2020
Proteins Have an Orientation in Plant Cells
Just like animals, plants are made of cells that are full of proteins. The proteins in plant cells are often only found ...
OCT 13, 2020
Microbiology
Bacterial Biofilms Can Take on Some Animal-Like Characteristics
OCT 13, 2020
Bacterial Biofilms Can Take on Some Animal-Like Characteristics
Bacteria are everywhere, even inside of our bodies, and they are thought to date back to the early days of life on Earth ...
OCT 29, 2020
Microbiology
Metabolomics and the Microbiome
OCT 29, 2020
Metabolomics and the Microbiome
The average person contains large variations in bacteria from the mouth, the skin, sweat, and in the stomach and intesti ...
NOV 15, 2020
Microbiology
Monitoring a Virus in Real-Time as it Infects a Cell
NOV 15, 2020
Monitoring a Virus in Real-Time as it Infects a Cell
Hubrecht Institute researchers observe a virus as it invades a cell and competes with the host for control of the host c ...
Loading Comments...