Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Changing Cell Types

The common belief in the scientific community is that only early embryonic stem cells are capable of becoming any cell in the body, a quality known as pluripotency. Adult stem cells have proved to be multipotent, or capable of becoming multiple types of cells. However, scientists have recently, for the first time, successfully changed a cell that was already differentiated into a completely different cell type.

Using a roundworm as the animal model in the experiment, the scientists introduced a protein known as transcription factor ELT-7 into the roundworm's genome. A transcription factor is a protein that is responsible for turning certain genes on in cells. In a fully differentiated cell, a very specific set of transcription factors are present which give the cell the characteristics and functions of the type of cell that it has become. In the experiment, the scientists were able to successfully change the transcription factors in a pharynx cell and the cell transformed and performed as a intestinal cell.

The experiment proved to have limitations, though. When skin, muscle, and nerve cells were called on to transform in a similar manner that the pharynx cell was called upon, they did not transform and instead remained in their fully-differentiated state. Scientists are still trying to determine why certain types of cells respond to the transformation and why other cells do not.

The article was interesting to me because if this technique can be further developed for human use, it has the potential for huge success in regenerative medicine. A tissue or an organ could theoretically be created using a completely different type of cell.



Post a Comment

<< Home