Adult stem cells offer great therapeutic potential for a variety of diseases through their capacity to replenish diseased cells and tissue. At present, however, it remains a real challenge to induce efficient repopulation of target tissues by stem cells. Now, research in the May issue of Nature Cell Biology shows that bone marrow stem cells from mice, missing a gene known to inhibit cell division, can overcome this hurdle to a great extent.
Tao Cheng and colleagues used mutant mice lacking a protein, p18, which normally inhibits cell division in mammalian cells and is implicated in several cancers. They find that, compared with normal stem cells, the stem cells isolated from this mutant are much more efficient at repopulating an injured bone-marrow tissue. This was apparently due to increased division of the mutant stem cells, resulting in a larger cell population and thus a competitive advantage.
It seems that the p18INK4C protein normally inhibits the division and self-renewal of bone-marrow stem cells, and so blocking its function may be a productive way to enhance the efficacy of stem cell transplantation in disease models.
Tao Cheng (University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, PA, USA)
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(C) Nature Cell Biology press release.
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