UCLA Scientists Coax Stem Cells Into Becoming Somites

Posted: Feb 8 2017, 5:16am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

UCLA scientists coax stem cells into becoming somites

Somites are precursor cells to skeletal muscle, bone, and cartilage

Researchers at UCLA have made a breakthrough in stem cell research. The team has found that by applying a perfect mix of signalling molecules to stem cells that those stem cells can be coaxed into turning into something resembling somites. A somite is a precursor cell to skeletal muscle, bone, and cartilage seen in developing embryos. The somites were created in the lab, in a dish, and the breakthrough gives scientists the potential to generate these types of cells in the lab.

The research was led by senior author April Pyle working in the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA. This research represents an advancement in working with pluripotent stem cells that are able to become any cell in the body. The catch in working with these cells is that scientists have had a difficult time guiding those stem cells into producing tissues including muscle.

In developing embryos, muscle cells, bone, and cartilage like that found in ribs and vertebrae arise from small clusters of cells called somites. The team at UCLA isolated the tiny developing human somites and measure the expression levels of different genes before and after the somites were fully formed. When genes were found to change levels during that process, the team tested to determine if adding molecules to boost or suppress the function of that gene in human pluripotent stem cells helped the cells to become somite-like.

In the lab they on that by applying the optimal mix of molecules to the human stem cells, 90% of those stem cells could become somite cells in four days. This new research creates the opportunity for scientists to make muscle, bone, and cartilage cells in the lab. The next step of the research in the UCLA lab will have the team investigating how cells generated from those new somites might be used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/3" rel="author">Shane McGlaun</a>
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