Monday, August 13, 2012

Researchers identify mechanisms that allow embryonic stem cells to become any cell in the human body

Pictured here are Ph.D. student Shai Melcer (left)
with Dr. Eran Meshorer in the department of genetics
at the Hebrew University's Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences.
New understanding of the mechanisms that give embryonic stem cells their plasticity could allow preparation of cells in the laboratory for treating Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases
New research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sheds light on pluripotency—the ability of embryonic stem cells to renew themselves indefinitely and to differentiate into all types of mature cells. Solving this problem, which is a major challenge in modern biology, could expedite the use of embryonic stem cells in cell therapy and regenerative medicine. If scientists can replicate the mechanisms that make pluripotency possible, they could create cells in the laboratory which could be implanted in humans to cure diseases characterized by cell death, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and other degenerative diseases.

To shed light on these processes, researchers in the lab of Dr. Eran Meshorer, in the Department of Genetics at the Hebrew University's Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, are combining molecular, microscopic and genomic approaches. Meshorer's team is focusing on epigenetic pathways—which cause biological changes without a corresponding change in the DNA sequence—that are specific to embryonic stem cells....

The research was funded by grants from the European Union (ERC, Marie Curie), Israel Science Foundation, Ministry of Science, Ministry of Health, The National Institute for Psychobiology, Israel Cancer Research Foundation (ICRF), Abisch-Frenkel Foundation and Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP).

The research appears in the journal Nature Communications. -- Dov Smith, Hebrew University

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