A revolutionary technology to explore and identify the complex molecular signals that determine the fate of precursor cells of the human brain is reported in this month's issue of Molecular Systems Biology. The scientists believe that their findings represent an important advance in our understanding of the human brain development and how cells respond to their extracellular environment.
By cultivating cells in parallel and exposing them to different 'molecular microenvironments', the technology developed by Yoav Soen in the laboratories of Theo Palmer and Patrick Brown enables a systematic exploration of the combinatorial effect of multiple signals on cellular differentiation.
Analysis revealed that combinations of signals often promoted responses different from the effects of the individual signals. In some cases, one signal apparently dominates the others, revealing the ability of cells respond in a robust manner to a mixture of potentially conflicting signals. This detailed information may help the design of molecular approaches for programming desired cellular responses by rational manipulation of their microenvironment.
Understanding the mechanism of neural precursor cell differentiation is important in studying brain development and crucial for realising their potential for regenerative medicine. Finally, the technology used in this study may have many potential biomedical applications, including in the fields of protein and drug screening, tissue engineering, and diagnostic analysis of small tumour samples.
Theo Palmer (Stanford University, CA, USA)
Mandy Aujla (Nature Publishing Group, London)
FREE FULL ACCESS to the report is available online.
(C) Molecular Systems Biology press release.
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