Nav: Home

MSU discovers a new kind of stem cell

March 03, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Scientists at Michigan State University have discovered a new kind of stem cell, one that could lead to advances in regenerative medicine as well as offer new ways to study birth defects and other reproductive problems.

In the current issue of the journal Stem Cell Reports, Tony Parenti, lead author and MSU cell and molecular biology graduate student, unearthed the new cells - induced XEN cells, or iXEN - in a cellular trash pile, of sorts.

"Other scientists may have seen these cells before, but they were considered to be defective, or cancer-like," said Parenti, who works in the lab of Amy Ralston, MSU biochemist, cell and molecular biologist and co-author of the study. "Rather than ignore these cells that have been mislabeled as waste byproducts, we found gold in the garbage."

A great deal of stem cell research focuses on new ways to make and use pluripotent stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells can be created by reactivating embryonic genes to "reprogram" mature adult cells. Reprogramming mature cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, allows them to become malleable building blocks that can morph into any cell in the body.

For example, if a patient has a defective liver, healthy cells could be taken from the patient, reprogrammed into iPS cells, which could then be used to help regenerate the person's failing organ. Taking cells from the same patient may greatly reduce the chance of the body rejecting the new treatment, Parenti said.

Prior to the discovery of reprogramming, scientists developed pluripotent stem cells from embryos. However, the embryo produces not only pluripotent stem cells, but also XEN cells, a stem cell type with unique properties. While pluripotent stem cells produce cells in the body, XEN cells produce extraembryonic tissues that play an essential but indirect role in fetal development.

Parenti and his team speculated that if the embryo produces both pluripotent and XEN cells, this might also occur during reprogramming.

The eureka moment came when Parenti discovered colonies of iXEN cells popping up like weeds in his iPS cell cultures. Using mice models, the team spent six months proving that these genetic weeds are not cancer-like, as previously suspected, but in fact, a new kind of stem cell with desirable properties.

Even more surprising, the team found that by inhibiting expression of XEN genes during reprogramming, they could decrease production of iXEN cells and increase production of iPS cells.

"Nature makes stem cells perfectly, but we are still trying to improve our stem cell production," Parenti said. "We took what we learned by studying the embryo and applied it to reprogramming, and this opened up a new way to optimize reprogramming."

The team wouldn't have made this breakthrough without the high level of collaboration and access to cutting-edge facilities at Michigan State, he added.

The next steps of this research will involve seeing if this process occurs in human cells. XEN cells have yet to be discovered in humans, but the possibility of their existence is a key focus of the field.

"It's a missing tool that we don't have yet," Ralston said. "It's true that XEN cells have characteristics that pluripotent stem cells do not have. Because of those traits, iXEN cells can shed light on reproductive diseases. If we can continue to unlock the secrets of iXEN cells, we may be able to improve induced pluripotent stem cell quality and lay the groundwork for future research on tissues that protect and nourish the human embryo."
-end-
Additional MSU researchers contributing to this study include Keith Latham, Michael Halbisen and Kai Wang.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research through grants R03 HD077112, R01 HD075093, and R01 GM104009.

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

For MSU news on the Web, go to MSUToday. Follow MSU News on Twitter at twitter.com/MSUnews.

Michigan State University

Related Stem Cell Articles:

Stem cell identity unmasked by single cell sequencing technology
Scientists from The University of Queensland's Diamantina Institute have revealed the difference between a stem cell and other blood vessel cells using gene-sequencing technology.
It's all about the (stem cell) neighborhood
Researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School have now identified how the stem cell neighbourhood, known as a niche, keeps stem cells in the gut alive.
Spaceflight activates cell changes with implications for stem cell-based heart repair
A new study of the effects of spaceflight on the development of heart cells identified changes in calcium signaling that could be used to develop stem cell-based therapies for cardiac repair.
Not just a stem cell marker
The protein CD34 is predominantly regarded as a marker of blood-forming stem cells but it helps with migration to the bone marrow too.
Interferon-beta producing stem cell-derived immune cell therapy on liver cancer
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell-derived myeloid cells (iPS-ML) that produce the anti-tumor protein interferon-beta (IFN-beta) have been produced and analyzed by researchers from Kumamoto University, Japan.
More Stem Cell News and Stem Cell Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...