Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Researchers report a "groovy" way to influence the specialisation of stem cells

The primary cilia were grown on
 micro-grooves 10 micrometres in size
It's a known fact that certain stem cells have the capacity to transform into any cell type within the body through the process of differentiation.

This ability may have applications in the development of new therapies for a range of medical treatments where scientists aim to replace or regenerate tissues that have become diseased or dysfunctional.

Now, in a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at Queen Mary University of London describe that they have found that growing adult mesenchymal stem cells on micro-grooved surfaces disrupts the biochemical pathway that determines the length of the primary cilia.

This change in length of the structure ultimately controls the subsequent behaviour of the stem cells.

"Primary cilia are a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair and are a ubiquitous feature of most cell types but were once thought to be irrelevant. However, our research shows that they play a key role in stem cell differentiation. "We found it's possible to control stem cell specialization by manipulating primary cilia elongation, and that this occurs when stem cells are grown on these special grooved surfaces." explained co-author Professor Martin Knight from Queen Mary's School of Engineering and Materials Science and the Institute of Bioengineering.
Prof Martin Knight

Stem cells are being considered to treat a number of degenerative conditions such as arthritis, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

- Martin Knight et al. (2013). Surface topography regulates wnt signaling through control of primary cilia structure in mesenchymal stem cells. Scientific Reports DOI: 10.1038/srep03545

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