best in science, biology, cancer cellsCaspase-8 plays an important role in proliferation and invasion of cancer cells

LA JOLLA, Calif., – Scientists at Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) have found that the Caspase-8 protein, long known to play a major role in promoting programmed cell death (apoptosis), helps relay signals that can cause cancer cells to proliferate, migrate and invade surrounding tissues. The study was published in the journal Cancer Research on June 15.

biology, stem cells, engraftment, by Simone Alves

Improving engraftment increases survival in a mouse model

Drugs that encourage stem cells from the blood to engraft in the heart might be able to help prevent deaths caused by the tissue damage that occurs after heart attacks. A report published in Cell Stem Cell this month by Wolfgang Franz and colleagues at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich suggests that targeting the SDF-1alpha–CXCR4 homing axis could save cardiac tissue and increase survival rates.

best in science, biology, gene, liverby Monya Baker

A single added gene prompts liver progenitor cells to make insulin and reverse diabetes

With the introduction of a single gene, cells in the liver can take on the function of pancreatic cells and go on to reverse symptoms of diabetes in a mouse model of the disease. Researchers led by Lawrence Chan at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, had already shown that they could, in effect, cure diabetes in mice by infecting their livers with a virus containing the gene for neurogenin (Ngn3), a transcription factor that is expressed as cells begin differentiating into insulin-producing beta-cells, the type of cells lost in juvenile diabetes. Although the researchers knew that this process worked, they did not know why, so they began trying to figure out which cells in the liver began producing insulin.

by Mick Aulakh

Adult cardiac fibroblasts tell neighbouring myocytes to expand; embryonic fibroblasts say proliferate

Though cardiac muscle cells proliferate in embryos, they unfortunately lose this function as the heart matures. Adult cardiomyocytes tend to grow through hypertrophy (increased cell size) rather than hyperplasia (increased cell number), even though the latter process is often more desirable.

Publishing in Developmental Cell, researchers led by Deepak Srivastava at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco, California, have now identified the key factors and cell types responsible for cardiomyocyte proliferation and have helped explain the differences between the adult and embryonic behaviour of these cells1.

science. biology, fetal by Monya Baker

The protein Runx1 matters in most progenitors, but just for a while

A single haematopoietic stem cell can re-form an animal's entire blood system, but how these cells form in the embryo is a much-studied mystery. Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia piece together when and where an important gene in this process functions.

Haematopoietic stem (HS) cells are found at several sites in the early mouse conceptus (that is, the foetus and its extra-embryonic tissues). The transcription factor Runx1 is expressed at each of them. Runx1 is known to be necessary for HS cells to form in the vascular areas — the early aorta, yolk sac, placenta, umbilical vessels and vitelline arteries of the early digestive tract — but it's less clear which cells produce HSCs. Do blood cells come from the endothelial lining of blood vessels or from other progenitors?

by Monya Baker

Wnt signalling stimulates the beginnings of gastrulation

Left to their own devices, cultured pluripotent stem cells clump together. A hotchpotch of differentiated cells forms within these so-called 'embryoid bodies', and in fact, the formation of embryoid bodies is a preliminary assay of good quality in embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Researchers led by Roel Nusse at Stanford School of Medicine in California have now observed something surprising in these much studied structures: they spontaneously begin a process called gastrulation, the cell movements that occur in mammalian embryos after implantation and which result in the formation of the three germ layers of the animal body.

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