Scientists uncover the potential to control adult stem cells

Apr 10, 2008

Research being presented today at the UK National Stem Cell Network Annual Science Meeting in Edinburgh represents a step towards the use of Adult Stem Cells (ASCs) to repair damaged tissue. Speaking at the conference in Edinburgh, Professor Cay Kielty of the University of Manchester describes how she and her team have uncovered a messaging system that instructs ASCs to contribute to tissue repair in response to chemical signals in the body.

This work, funded by the Medical Research Council, holds great hope for the development of techniques by which ASCs could be instructed to repair damaged tissues.

ASCs have potential for therapeutic use and avoid many of the ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cells. However, at present it is necessary to gain a better understanding of how, from first principles, ASCs can be controlled based on signalling systems that normally give instructions within the body. There is the potential in the future to apply such understanding to the generation of cells for transplant.

Professor Kielty’s team study stem cells that are found in human bone marrow called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). MSCs have the ability to relocate and develop into several different types of cells and tissue and are very promising as a source of cells for transplant in tissue repair. As well as offering the potential for bespoke treatments derived from a person’s own cells, MSCs are unlikely to trigger a severe immune response, and may be suitable for “off-the-shelf” treatments for tissue repair. This research focuses on the details of a messaging system that leads to the development of blood vessels from MSCs in the body. This system is called ‘PDGF receptor signalling’.

In PDGF receptor signalling, receptors on the surface of the MSCs receive messages in the form of molecules that are involved in directing human growth and development – ‘growth factors’. It has been found that there is a complex messaging system that relays and coordinates the signals from certain growth factors to the MSCs, which encourage their recruitment to new blood vessels. This involves cooperation between two types of receptor called ‘PDGF receptor’ and ‘neuropilin-1’ that respond to growth factors called PDGF and VEGF-A arriving at the cell surface, as well as sensing close proximity to other cells that make up the blood vessel.

As well as offering insights into the use of ASCs for tissue repair therapies, a better knowledge of how blood vessels develop is crucial to understanding and treating a huge range of diseases such as cancer, diabetic retinopathy and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Kielty said: “What we have shown is that adult stem cells respond in particular ways to some of the chemical signals in the body. The next stage will be to understand how this messaging system regulates relocation of the MSCs and instructs them to become blood vessel cells. After that, we can look at applying our understanding to develop stem-cell derived therapies for tissue repair.”

Source: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Explore further: Experts 'grasping at straws' to save near-extinct rhino

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Unraveling the light of fireflies

1 hour ago

How do fireflies produce those mesmerizing light flashes? Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, scientists from Switzerland and Taiwan have unraveled the firefly's intricate light-producing system for the ...

Obama bars oil, gas drilling in Alaska haven

1 hour ago

President Barack Obama declared Alaska's ecologically rich Bristol Bay off-limits for oil and gas exploration on Tuesday, saying the move was necessary to safeguard the region's fishing and tourism industries.

Microbiome may have shaped early human populations

11 hours ago

We humans have an exceptional age structure compared to other animals: Our children remain dependent on their parents for an unusually long period and our elderly live an extremely long time after they have ...

Recommended for you

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

4 hours ago

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.