Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that stem cells in muscles get more garbled instructions from the body as we age, and without full instructions, the stem cells can't heal injured muscles as well. The study revealed that Wnt, a protein traditionally thought to help promote maintenance and proliferation of stem cells in many tissues, actually blocks proper communication in this instance. Researchers already know of many drugs that block Wnt signaling. "Theoretically, given the number of ways to block Wnt and Wnt signaling, one could envision this becoming a therapeutic," said Thomas Rando, associate professor of neurology at Stanford. "You could potentially enhance the healing of aged tissues by reducing this effect of Wnt signaling on the resident stem cells." Understanding how the body directs stem cells may open the door to new therapies for injuries in a host of different tissues.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated that applying physical stress can alter the structure of proteins tucked within cells, unfold them and expose new targets in the fight against disease. "We were motivated to probe molecular mechanics within cells in part by our recent findings on stem cells that show they generate their own forces, switching on and off development of different cell types," said Dennis Discher, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. The results of this study may increase the understanding of cellular behavior and unlock sites for drugs to interact with these proteins to treat disease.
A study led by Yi Sun at UCLA and Thomas Südhof at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center showed that not all embryonic stem cell lines are created equal. The scientists compared neurons generated from two NIH-approved embryonic stem cell lines and uncovered significant differences in the mature, functioning neurons from each line. "On the one hand, it may actually be good to have ES (embryonic stem) cells with a particular propensity for differentiation, because it may make it easier to get certain types of tissue," said Dr. Thomas Südhof. "On the other hand, it may also limit the ability of these ES cells to fully replicate those types of tissues."
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