A discovery at McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute suggests that a signaling molecule critical for proper embryonic development of a multicellular organism also plays a role in maintaining the fundamental properties of pluripotent stem cells, the unique cells that can become any cell type of the body.
Researchers led by principal investigator Brad Doble (pictured), have found that a protein called beta-catenin controls the ability of mouse embryonic stem cells to differentiate into various new types of specialized cells such as neurons.
The newly discovered properties of beta-catenin may also have important implications for cancer, because it is frequently found mutated in several types of human cancer.
"The way that beta-catenin controls embryonic stem cell properties has been unclear," said Doble, an assistant professor in McMaster’s Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Science. "We have identified a unique mechanism through which beta-catenin exerts its effects, which may be important not only in stem cells, but also in cancer."
Illustration: McMaster University.
McMaster University News Release (02/04/11)
Medical News Today (02/07/11)
Abstract (Cell Stem Cell; Vol. 8, Issue 2, 214-227 (02/04/11))