Cell vs. Cell
I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.
Stem cells are those young cells that have the ability to 'morph' into just about any type of cell as they mature. In a new stem cell study, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute are taking a new approach.
Up to now, most stem cell research has focused on genes and proteins that help give the stem cell its ultimate mission. The Scripps team decided instead to focus on the biochemical level - on naturally-occuring small molecules in cells -- metabolites.
When they compared the biochemistry of mouse stem cells with mature cells, they found significant differences and an unexpected pattern. Just as stem cells can change into almost any type of cell, stem cell metabolites have structures that let them react easily and change into many different types of molecules. Metabolites in mature cells don't have that chemical flexibility.
The researchers say metabolites play an active role in helping to give the stem cell its eventual assignment. To confirm that, the team blocked chemical changes in the metabolites. When they did, the stem cells' normal transformation ceased. The scientists found more than 60 previously unidentified metabolites associated with the progression of stem cells into mature cells.
Groundbreaking new understanding of stem cells that could hold hope for therapies that manipulate cell fate or grow cells to promote healing.
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