Taking the fate of stem cells in hand: Researchers generate immature nerve cells

June 28, 2012
The RUB researchers converted neural stem cells from the spinal cord of the mouse into nerve cells; one cell is shown here. The main projection of the nerve cell, the axon is coloured green, other projections, the dendrites, red. Nuclei are shown in blue in the illustration. © Michael Karus

German biologists have deliberately transformed stem cells from the spinal cord of mice into immature nerve cells. This was achieved by changing the cellular environment, known as the extracellular matrix, using the substance sodium chlorate. Via sugar side chains, the extracellular matrix determines which cell type a stem cell can generate.

"Influencing pharmacologically so that they transform into a particular type of cell can help in cell replacement therapies in future" says Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, head of the work group. "Therapies, for example, for Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis could then become more efficient."

The team describes its findings in Neural Development.

Sulphate determines the fate of stem cells

Sodium chlorate acts on metabolism enzymes in the cell which attach sulphate groups to proteins. If these sulphates are not installed, the cell continues to form proteins for the , but with modified sugar . These chains in turn send out signals that define the fate of the stem cells. Stem cells can not only develop into , but also form astrocytes or oligodendrocytes, which are, for instance, responsible for the mineral balance of the nerve cells or which form their insulation layer. What happens to the stem cells if the sulphate pattern is changed by sodium chlorate was examined by Dr. Michael Karus and his colleagues.

Positive side effects: nerve cells remain immature

The RUB-laboratories of Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, Prof. Dr. Andreas Faissner and Prof. Dr. Irmgard Dietzel-Meyer collaborated for the study. Using antibodies, the researchers showed that cells which they had treated with sodium chlorate developed into nerve cells. They also analysed the flow of into the cells. The result: treated cells showed a lower sodium current than mature nerve cells. Sodium chlorate thus favours the development of stem cells into nerve cells, but, at the same time, also inhibits the maturation - a positive side effect, as Wiese explains: "If sodium chlorate stops the nerve cells in an early developmental phase, this could enable them to integrate into the nervous system following a transplant better than mature nerve cells would do."

Explore further: Control by the matrix: Researchers decipher the role of proteins in the cell environment

More information: M. Karus, S. Samtleben, C. Busse, T. Tsai, I.D. Dietzel, A. Faissner, S. Wiese (2012): Normal sulphation levels regulate spinal cord neural precursor cell proliferation and differentiation, Neural Development, doi: 10.1186/1749-8104-7-20

Related Stories

Control by the matrix: Researchers decipher the role of proteins in the cell environment

December 12, 2011
How astrocytes, certain cells of the nervous system, are generated was largely unknown up to now. Bochum's researchers have now investigated what influence the cell environment, known as the extracellular matrix, has on this ...

Recommended for you

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Study reveals key molecular link in major cell growth pathway

October 19, 2017
A team of scientists led by Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising molecular link that connects how cells regulate growth with how they sense and make available the nutrients required for growth. Their work, which ...

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.