Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Antibody triggers bone marrow stem cells to become brain cells

In what they describe as a "serendipitous discovery", researchers from the Scripps Research Institute (SRI) have identified an antibody which can be used to turn bone marrow stem cells into brain cells. The newly developed technique is safer, simpler and more effective than then currently available ones, say the researchers.

The researchers stumbled upon their discovery while searching for antibodies that could stimulate stem cell growth by activating the GCSF receptor which is present on the surface of bone marrow stem cells. However, one of these antibodies had an unexpected effect. Instead of triggering growth, it induced stem cells into forming neural cells.

“This is a far cry from the way antibodies used to be thought of—as molecules that were selected simply for binding and not function.” said Richard Lerner, one of the study's chief authors.

"The cells proliferated, but also started becoming long and thin and attaching to the bottom of the dish," said Jia Xie, senior author of the study

You can read more about the study and how the researchers came across their discovery here.

Antibodies (also known as an immunoglobulins), are large Y-shaped proteins produced by B-cells. Their main role is to identify and neutralise foreign objects that enter our body, like bacteria and viruses.

A 3D model of an Immunoglobulin molecule

Jia Xiea, Hongkai Zhanga, Kyungmoo Yeab, & Richard A. Lerner (2013). Autocrine signaling based selection of combinatorial antibodies that transdifferentiate human stem cells Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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