Gene thought to make heart tissues turns out to make blood and muscles as well

May 2, 2013 by Caroline Marin, University of Minnesota

New research out of the Lillehei Heart Institute at the University of Minnesota shows that by turning on just a single gene, Mesp1, different cell types including the heart, blood and muscle can be created from stem cells.

The study was published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

"Previous research indicated that this gene was the "master regulator" for development of the heart, and that its activity prevented the differentiation of other cell types," said Michael Kyba, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Pediatrics and a Lillehei endowed scholar. "Our work reveals that this gene acts differently, and that it plays a role in the development of blood and as well. The outcome depends on the that cells expressing this factor sense in their environment."

The research was conducted in the Kyba Lab by lead author Sunny Chan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate in the lab.

Stem cell researchers have been trying to generate different cell types for regenerative medicine for years. The gene Mesp1 was particularly interesting to cardiac researchers because it was believed to be a master regulator, sitting at the pinnacle of a gene hierarchy driving cardiac differentiation, blocking the differentiation of other cell types.

However, this research turns that assumption on its head.

A carefully designed study, aimed at understanding precisely what Mesp1 does at different points in time as stem cells develop, revealed that the gene can do so much more than previously thought.

By turning Mesp1 on and off at specific time windows and fine-tuning the culture environment, stem cells can be coached to become not just heart cells, but also blood and .

"This is totally out of the blue, but our discovery brings some conflicting findings about Mesp1 together," said Chan. "Some previous studies reported Mesp1 could not make in certain contexts. We now know why."

The Kyba team further shows Mesp1 is present in the cells that go on to become adult stem cells in the bone marrow which form new blood cells, and stem cells in the skeletal muscles, which form new muscle fibers.

"We are amazed at what a single gene can do," said Chan. "By understanding what Mesp1 does, we are more likely to make different from more efficiently. We are one step closer to using stem cell technology for regenerative medicine."

Explore further: Long non-coding RNA molecules necessary to regulate differentiation of embryonic stem cells into cardiac cells

More information: www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/ab … 1934-5909(13)00099-4

Related Stories

Long non-coding RNA molecules necessary to regulate differentiation of embryonic stem cells into cardiac cells

January 25, 2013
When the human genome was sequenced, biologists were surprised to find that very little of the genome—less than 3 percent—corresponds to protein-coding genes. What, they wondered, was all the rest of that DNA doing?

Newly discovered heart stem cells make muscle and bone

December 1, 2011
Researchers have identified a new and relatively abundant pool of stem cells in the heart. The findings in the December issue of Cell Stem Cell, a Cell Press publication, show that these heart cells have the capacity for ...

Recommended for you

Psychiatric disorders share an underlying genetic basis

June 21, 2018
Psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often run in families. In a new international collaboration, researchers explored the genetic connections between these and other disorders of the brain at ...

Deep data dive helps predict cerebral palsy

June 21, 2018
When University of Delaware molecular biologist Adam Marsh was studying the DNA of worms living in Antarctica's frigid seas to understand how the organisms managed to survive—and thrive—in the extremely harsh polar environment, ...

Genetic variation in progesterone receptor tied to prematurity risk, study finds

June 21, 2018
Humans have unexpectedly high genetic variation in the receptor for a key pregnancy-maintaining hormone, according to research led by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding may help explain ...

Shared genetics may shape treatment options for certain brain disorders

June 20, 2018
Symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, including psychosis, depression and manic behavior, have both shared and distinguishing genetic factors, an international consortium led by researchers from Vanderbilt University ...

Scientists unravel DNA code behind rare neurologic disease

June 20, 2018
Scientists conducting one of the largest full DNA analyses of a rare disease have identified a gene mutation associated with a perplexing brain condition that blinds and paralyzes patients.

Simple sugar delays neurodegeneration caused by enzyme deficiency

June 20, 2018
A new therapeutic approach may one day delay neurodegeneration typical of a disease called mucopolysaccharidoses IIIB (MPS IIIB). Neurodegeneration in this condition results from the abnormal accumulation of essential cellular ...

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.