During the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into specific daughter cells, some pluripotent stem cells can be left behind to form tumours such as teratomas. However, researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have now identified a method with which they can separate out the rogue pluripotent stem cells from the desired differentiated cells, and thus reduce the risk of tumour formation in regenerative medicine.
The research was led by Carla Koehler a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA, and Dr. Michael Teitell, a UCLA professor of pathology and pediatrics. It was published in Developmental Cell.
In a discovery that surprised the researchers, they found that a molecule called MitoBloCK-6 could inhibit mitochondrial assembly and thus block cardiac development in zebrafish. However, in a puzzling revelation, the molecule had no such effect on differentiated cells. Moving on to human stem cells, the researchers found each time that although the pluripotent human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) died in the presence on MitoBloCK-6, the differentiated daughter cells were resistant to death.
MitoBloCK-6 appeared to induce apoptosis via cytochrome c release in hESCs, but not in differentiated cells. “We discovered that pluripotent stem cell mitochondria undergo a change during differentiation into tissue-specific daughter cells, which could be the key to the survival of the differentiated cells when the samples are exposed to MitoBloCK-6," said Dr. Teitell, in a press release. "We are still investigating this process in mitochondria, but we now know that mitochondria have an important role in controlling pluripotent stem cell survival.”
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