[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 18-Sep-2008
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Contact: Cathy Yarbrough
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Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

Different stem cell types defined by exclusive combinations of genes working together

Singapore scientists report findings in Cell Stem Cell

In the new issue of Cell Stem Cell, scientists report that the same transcription factor, which is crucial for the survival of different stem cell types, can behave differently.

This study clearly showed for the first time that different types of stem cells are defined by exclusive combinations of genes working together, and this is under the influence of a single key stem cell factor (called Sall4).

The finding is timely since other researchers have recently revealed that specific genetic recipes can be used to turn non-stem cells into different stem cells that can be useful clinically.

This finding reveals important insights about how scientists may be able to manipulate and engineer different stem cells for the treatment of human degenerative disorders.

Understanding the behaviour of transcription factors, a class of gene regulators, helps pave the way for important advancements in stem cell technology and clinical research.

Stem cells are important for the cell-based therapy of many degenerative tissue disorders. Each type of body tissue has its own unique type of stem cells whose behaviour is controlled by different sets of genes.

Given the enormous complexity of each stem cell type and the underlying genetic bases for their unique purpose, it has been a major challenge for scientists to unravel the similarities and differences between the different stem cells.

The latest research, led by Bing Lim, Senior Group Leader at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), focused on identifying and understanding the functions of powerful genetic molecules, also known as "stem cell factors".

Dr. Bing Lim said, "This new discovery has provided us with important new leads and ideas on how to grow and expand various stem cells for clinical research and treatment needs."

Dr. Daniel Tenen, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Director for Cancer Research Centre of Excellence at the National University of Singapore, said, "These studies are of great significance, as they provide important clues as to how a single transcription factor might regulate different targets in different stem cells."

Interestingly, this stem cell factor also appeared to be associated with certain diseases, particularly leukemia.

Dr. Li Chai, Instructor at the Department of Pathology at the Harvard Medical School, added that, "as Sall4 plays an important role in both normal hematopoietic stem cell function and in leukemia stem cells, these findings may have clinical relevance; they may lead to understanding differences between normal and cancer stem cells."

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Notes to editor:

These research findings are published in the Sept. 18, 2008 online issue of CELL STEM CELL in a paper titled, "Sall4 regulates distinct transcription circuitries in different blastocyst-derived stem cell lineages".

Authors:

Chin Yan Lim,1,7 Wai-Leong Tam,1,7,* Jinqiu Zhang,1,7 Haw Siang Ang,4 Hui Jia,2,8 Leonard Lipovich,2,8 Huck-Hui Ng,1,5 Chia-Lin Wei,3 Wing Kin Sung,2 Paul Robson,1,5 Henry Yang,4 and Bing Lim1,6,*

1. Stem Cell and Developmental Biology, Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS)
2. Information and Mathematical Sciences Group, GIS
3. Genome Technology and Biology Group, GIS
4. Bioinformatics Group, Singapore Immunology Network
5. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore
6. Harvard Institutes of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
7. These authors contributed equally to this work
8. Present address: Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

Correspondence: tamwl@gis.a-star.edu.sg (W.-L.T.), limb1@gis.a-star.edu.sg (B.L.)

Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS):

www.gis.a-star.edu.sg

GIS is a member of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). It is a national initiative with a global vision that seeks to use genomic sciences to improve public health and public prosperity. Established in 2001 as a centre for genomic discovery, the GIS will pursue the integration of technology, genetics and biology towards the goal of individualized medicine. The key research areas at the GIS include Systems Biology, Stem Cell & Developmental Biology, Cancer Biology & Pharmacology, Human Genetics, Infectious Diseases, Genomic Technologies, and Computational & Mathematical Biology. The genomics infrastructure at the GIS is utilized to train new scientific talent, to function as a bridge for academic and industrial research, and to explore scientific questions of high impact.

Agency for Science, Technology and Research:

www.a-star.edu.sg

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, is Singapore's lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore. A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, with a particular focus on fields essential to Singapore's manufacturing industry and new growth industries. It oversees 14 research institutes and supports extramural research with the universities, hospital research centres and other local and international partners. At the heart of this knowledge intensive work is human capital. Top local and international scientific talent drive knowledge creation at A*STAR research institutes. The agency also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training in the best universities, a reflection of the high priority A*STAR places on nurturing the next generation of scientific talent.

Press enquiries:
Winnie Serah Lim
GIS Corporate Communications
Tel: (65) 6478 8013
(65) 9730 7884
Email: limcp2@gis.a-star.edu.sg



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