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Don’t Go Changing: New Chemical Keeps Stem Cells Young

Date:
February 11, 2009
Source:
University of Bath
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a chemical that stops stem cells from turning into other cell types, allowing researchers to use these cells to develop new medical treatments more easily.
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Professor Melanie Welham is led the research at the University of Bath.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Bath

Scientists at the Universities of Bath and Leeds have discovered a chemical that stops stem cells from turning into other cell types, allowing researchers to use these cells to develop new medical treatments more easily.

Stem cells have the ability to develop into many other cell types in the body, and scientists believe they have huge potential to treat diseases or injuries that don’t currently have a cure.

Professor Melanie Welham’s team at the University of Bath’s Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, collaborating with Professor Adam Nelson at the University of Leeds, have discovered a chemical that can be added to embryonic stem cells grown in the lab, allowing them to multiply without changing into other cell types.

This breakthrough will help scientists produce large stocks of cells that are needed for developing new medical therapies.

Professor Welham, who is co-director of the University of Bath’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine, explained: “Stem cells have great potential for treating spinal injuries and diseases like type I diabetes because they can change into a range of specialised cell types including nerve or pancreatic cells, which could be used to repair damaged tissues.

“Unfortunately, when you grow stem cells in the lab, they can spontaneously develop into specialised cells, making it difficult to grow large enough stocks to use for medical research.

“We’ve identified a chemical that will put this process on hold for several weeks so that we can grow large numbers of them in their unspecialised state. This is reversible, so when you take it away from the cells, they still have the ability to change into specialised cells.”

Professor Adam Nelson’s team, at the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, made more than 50 chemical compounds that were tested for activity in the stem cells.The researchers found that the chemicals worked by blocking an enzyme, called GSK3, that can control when the stem cell switches to a more specialised cell type.

Professor Nelson, who is Director of the Astbury Centre at the University of Leeds, said: “This research is a great example of how small molecules can be used as tools to understand biological mechanisms.”

The research, supported by funding from the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council.



Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bone et al. Involvement of GSK-3 in Regulation of Murine Embryonic Stem Cell Self-Renewal Revealed by a Series of Bisindolylmaleimides. Chemistry & Biology, 2009; 16 (1): 15 DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2008.11.003

Cite This Page:

University of Bath. "Don’t Go Changing: New Chemical Keeps Stem Cells Young." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090203081620.htm>.
University of Bath. (2009, February 11). Don’t Go Changing: New Chemical Keeps Stem Cells Young. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090203081620.htm
University of Bath. "Don’t Go Changing: New Chemical Keeps Stem Cells Young." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090203081620.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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