Monya Baker

Ascl2, a transcription factor and Wnt target, switches on a stem cell program in the gut

In the search for what makes a stem cell a stem cell, Hans Clevers and colleagues at Hubrecht Institute-KNAW, the Netherlands, have found a transcription factor expressed uniquely in the gut1. Deletion of the gene, called Achaete scute-like 2 (Ascl2), completely ablates stem cell activity. Activating the gene in non-stem cells causes the cells to take on stem cell characteristics, including making stem cell markers and reproducing the structures and specialized cell types that normal intestinal stem cells produce.

by Monya Baker

Rat pluripotent stem cells could bring knock-out rats, reprogramming insights, and a larger menagerie of stem cells.

A quartet of papers in December describe the production of rat pluripotent stem cells, both from rat embryos and from the genetic manipulation of cultured rat cells.

The rat embryonic stem cells were derived by research teams led by Austin Smith in Cambridge, UK and Qi-Long Ying of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. They mark the first of many attempts to create ES cells that, when mixed with a normal rat embryo, can contribute to the germline in the resultant rats. Though neither team has yet produced a knockin or knockout rat, Ying believes this could happen in less than a year.

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