Genetic Brake Key to Stem Cell Fate

Researchers at UC, Santa Barbara, have mapped the role of a genetic signal that puts the breaks on the ability of stem cells to self renew. The finding could eventually shed light on self-renewal that has run amuck as in cancer, and can immediately be put to use in managing the balancing act between self-renewal and differentiation-the process through which stem cells mature into more specific cell types such as neurons or muscle.  Specifically, they found that a microRNA, a single-stranded RNA whose function is to decrease gene expression, lowers the activity of three key genes needed for embryonic stem cell self-renewal. Conversely, they found that when this microRNA, miR-145, is lost the stem cells are prevented from differentiating into more mature cells.

Cell: April 30, 2009
CIRM funding: Na Xu (T3-00009)

Related Information: Press release, University of California, Santa Barbara

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CIRM's blog is intended to provide information about progress by CIRM grantees, highlight news in stem cell research, and comment on news and events that influence stem cell science whether it's in the U.S. or internationally.

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