Researchers at University of California, San Francisco found nearly a thousand genes that are expressed differently in different parts of the colon. The colon is constantly renewed via its own stem cells and understanding how these genes are expressed differently as the cells specialize will help understand what happens when this goes wrong as in colon cancer.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: September 25, 2007

Researchers at UC, San Francisco discovered that membrane proteins that form cell to cell connections also have an important role in controlling how neurons migrate in the brain. Understanding neuronal migration is a critical aspect of cell therapy in the nervous system, as replacement cells will need to be directed to their appropriate site of action. This research project is also an example of how funding work in one field moves along work in another.

Researchers at UC, San Francisco identified a group of genes that are active in embryonic stem cells but not in more differentiated cells. They also developed a technique to find DNA regions that could be important for activating these genes, and identified a factor that directs the production of proteins from genes that contain these regulatory DNA regions. These studies will greatly inform research efforts that rely on maintaining a stem cell's ability to proliferate and to generate the many different cell types in a human body.

Researchers at UC, San Diego found the function of a key protein involved in the cell cycle, the process by which a cell duplicates all its genes and divides. The protein is critical to the assembly of the membrane around the cell's nucleus. A fundamental understanding of the cell cycle is integral to advancing all cell-based therapies.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: April 17, 2007

Researchers at UC, San Francisco identified a molecule that regulates differentiation of embryonic stem cells. In some cases, small molecules of the genetic material RNA have the ability to turn genes on and off rather than carrying out the normal RNA function of coding for proteins. These small RNAs, called micro RNA or miRNA, are thought to be one way the cell regulates genes that control how stem cells differentiate into mature cell types. In this study, the researchers created genetically altered mouse embryonic stem cells that lack the miRNA DGCR8.

Researchers at UC, San Francisco found that proteins involved in the generation of neurons early in development also help neural stem cells produce neurons after birth. Furthermore, the researchers identified a self-repair mechanism in the brain that relies on these neural stem cells. Understanding how endogenous neural stem cells repair and remodel a mature brain is critical to successful stem cell therapy.

Cell: December 15, 2006