Changing Stem Cells Into Immature Nerve Cells
Biologists have deliberately transformed stem cells from the spinal cord of mice into immature nerve cells
By adding sodium chlorate to the culture medium, researchers changed the cellular environment afecting the extracellular matrix, and triggering the stem cells to differentiate. Via sugar side chains, the extracellular matrix determines which cell type a stem cell can generate.
Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, head of the Molecular Cell Biology, Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) work group: "Influencing precursor cells pharmacologically so that they transform into a particular type of cell can help in cell replacement therapies in future. Therapies, for example, for Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis could then become more efficient."
The team describes its findings in Neural Development.
Stem cells can not only develop into nerve cells, but also form astrocytes or oligodendrocytes, which are, for instance, responsible for the mineral balance of the nerve cells or which form their insulation layer. What happens to the stem cells if the sulphate pattern is changed by sodium chlorate was examined by Dr. Michael Karus and his colleagues.
Sulphate affects the fate of stem cells
Sodium chlorate acts on metabolism enzymes in the cell
which then attach sulphate groups to proteins.
If these sulphates are not installed, the cell
forms proteins for the extracellular matrix,
but with added modified sugar side chains.
These chains in turn send out signals
that define the fate of the stem cells.
Positive side effects: nerve cells remain immature
Using antibodies, the researchers showed that cells which were treated with sodium chlorate developed into nerve cells. They also analysed the flow of sodium ions into the cells and found that treated cells showed a lower sodium current than mature nerve cells.
It appears that sodium chlorate stimulates the development of stem cells into nerve cells, but at the same time, inhibits their maturation.
A positive side effect, as Wiese explains: "If sodium chlorate stops the nerve cells in an early developmental phase, this could enable them to integrate into the nervous system following a [nerve] transplant better than mature nerve cells would do."
The RUB-laboratories of Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, Prof. Dr. Andreas Faissner and Prof. Dr. Irmgard Dietzel-Meyer collaborated for the study.
M. Karus, S. Samtleben, C. Busse, T. Tsai, I.D. Dietzel, A. Faissner, S. Wiese (2012): Normal sulphation levels regulate spinal cord neural precursor cell proliferation and differentiation, Neural Development, doi: 10.1186/1749-8104-7-20
Prof. Dr. Stefan Wiese, Molecular Cell Biology Work Group, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-22041 firstname.lastname@example.org
Original article: http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2012/pm00221.html.en