Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rewiring stem cells: New technique may revolutionize understanding of how genes function

Date:
January 9, 2014
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
A new technique for determining what causes stem cells to convert into other cell types could revolutionize our understanding of how genes function.

This is a set of chromosomes in haploid mouse embryonic stem cells.
Credit: Martin Leeb

A fast and comprehensive method for determining the function of genes could greatly improve our understanding of a wide range of diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease and cancer.

The method uses stem cells with a single set of chromosomes, instead of the two sets found in most cells, to reveal what causes the "circuitry" of stem cells to be rewired as they begin the process of conversion into other cell types. The same method could also be used to understand a range of biological processes.

Embryonic stem cells rely on a particular gene circuitry to retain their original, undifferentiated state, making them self-renewing. The dismantling of this circuitry is what allows stem cells to start converting into other types of cells -- a process known as cell differentiation -- but how this happens is poorly understood.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge Wellcome Trust-MRC Stem Cell Institute have developed a technique which can pinpoint the factors which drive cell differentiation, including many that were previously unidentified. The method, outlined in the Thursday (9 January) edition of the journal Cell Stem Cell, uses stem cells with a single set of chromosomes to uncover how cell differentiation works.

Cells in mammals contain two sets of chromosomes -- one set inherited from the mother and one from the father. This can present a challenge when studying the function of genes, however: as each cell contains two copies of each gene, determining the link between a genetic change and its physical effect, or phenotype, is immensely complex.

"The conventional approach is to work gene by gene, and in the past people would have spent most of their careers looking at one mutation or one gene," said Dr Martin Leeb, who led the research, in collaboration with Professor Austin Smith. "Today, the process is a bit faster, but it's still a methodical gene by gene approach because when you have an organism with two sets of chromosomes that's really the only way you can go."

Dr Leeb used unfertilised mouse eggs to generate embryonic stem cells with a single set of chromosomes, known as haploid stem cells. These haploid cells show all of the same characteristics as stem cells with two sets of chromosomes, and retain the same full developmental potential, making them a powerful tool for determining how the genetic circuitry of mammalian development functions.

The researchers used transposons -- "jumping genes"- to make mutations in nearly all genes. The effect of a mutation can be seen immediately in haploid cells because there is no second gene copy. Additionally, since embryonic stem cells can convert into almost any cell type, the haploid stem cells can be used to investigate any number of conditions in any number of cell types. Mutations with important biological effects can then rapidly be traced to individual genes by next generation DNA sequencing.

"This is a powerful and revolutionary new tool for discovering how gene circuits operate," said Dr Leeb. "The cells and the methodology we've developed could be applied to a huge range of biological questions."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Martin Leeb, Sabine Dietmann, Maike Paramor, Hitoshi Niwa, Austin Smith. Genetic Exploration of the Exit from Self-Renewal Using Haploid Embryonic Stem Cells. Cell Stem Cell, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2013.12.008

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Rewiring stem cells: New technique may revolutionize understanding of how genes function." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109132309.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2014, January 9). Rewiring stem cells: New technique may revolutionize understanding of how genes function. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109132309.htm
University of Cambridge. "Rewiring stem cells: New technique may revolutionize understanding of how genes function." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109132309.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins