Skip to main content
Email Print Share

"Cell Check" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

In findings that could lead to new therapies, researchers from The Scripps Research Institute have described some striking differences between the biochemistry of stem cells versus mature cells.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

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.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.