Scientists Develop a New Tool to Boost Regenerative Medicine and Cancer Research with Support from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new tool described as a “flight data recorder” for developing cells, illuminating the paths cells take as they progress from one type to another.
Scientists hope to one day be able to take skin cells from a patient who needs a liver transplant, for example, and guide the skin cells along a known path that will result in a new liver. Without this cellular tracking device, researchers are able to study the original cells and the final cells in great detail — but the pathways cells take to reach their destinations have been largely unknown.
The study is published Dec. 5 in the journal Nature.
“There is a lot of interest in the potential of regenerative medicine — growing tissues and organs in labs — to test new drugs, for example, or for transplants one day,” said senior author Samantha A. Morris, assistant professor of developmental biology. “But we need to understand how the reprogramming process works. We want to know if the process for converting skin cells to heart cells is the same as for liver cells or brain cells. What are the special conditions necessary to turn one cell type into any other cell type? We designed this tool to help answer these questions.”
According to the researchers, the tool could reveal cellular “reprogramming” routes that might involve reverting skin cells back to different types of stem cells that could then mature into a new liver or other vital organ...