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Development Of Brain Stem Cells Into New Nerve Cells Can Lead To Cancer.

HEIDELBERG, Germany, January 31, 2019 -- A new study shows how brain stem cells make the decision to transform into new nerve cells.

Ana Martin-Villalba and colleagues at the German Cancer Research Center followed stem cells along the path to neurons.

They analyzed at every step which genes where switched on and which were actually turned into new proteins.

They expected to find that stem cells would simply switch their stem cell genes entirely off in order to become a neuron

But the process was much more complicated.

The researchers found that stem cell genes were not switched off, but simply put on standby, by preventing them from making the protein product that keeps the cell multipotent.

"To go into this standby mode and thus start the journey to become a neuron, stem cells switch off their inner signal to proliferate (called TOR) and stop to divide," said Martin-Villalba.

The researchers also found that stem cells always buy a return ticket. Just as flights can travel back and forth between countries, switching on or off TOR allows cells to travel from stem cell to neuron or back.

The decision of a stem cell to become a neuron remains reversible for some time.

Normally, the travel of stem cells is in one direction to make nerve cells, unless something goes wrong in between.

But if stem cells cannot properly control their TOR signal, they keep going back to stem cells, which in the long run can cause brain cancer rather than healing the brain.

Indeed, in many cancers the level of the TOR signal is artificially high.

For future developments of stem cell therapy, understanding and controlling TOR activity in stem cells will thus be very important.

Citation: Avni Baser et al., Onset of differentiation is post-transcriptionally controlled in adult neural stem cells. Nature, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-0888-x


Contact: Ana Martin-Villalba,

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Title Annotation:Basic Research
Publication:Stem Cell Research News
Date:Feb 11, 2019
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