Singapore scientists first to discover important genes in human stem cells

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London, Oct 19 (ANI): A team of scientists from Singapore has discovered the most important genes in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), a crucial breakthrough in discovering how human stem cells work.

The research, led by the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), two biomedical research institutes of Singapore's Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A STAR), is the first ever genome-wide study of human stem cells on such a massive scale, and its results are crucial in understanding how stem cells may one day be used to treat debilitating conditions such as Parkinson's disease and traumatic spinal injury.

GIS Senior Group Leader for Stem Cell and Development Biology and Associate Director for Biology Dr Ng Huck Hui, and IMCB Principal Investigator Dr Frederic Bard combined the strengths of their teams to investigate the 21,000 genes in the entire human genome to find those which regulate the two characteristic properties of hESCs - the capacity to turn into any type of cell in the human body (pluripotency), and the ability to retain that capacity indefinitely.

Out of the several key genes they identified, a particular gene known as PRDM14 was discovered to make it easier to turn a type of human cell (fibroblasts) into pluripotent stem cells.

The discoveries contribute to a fundamental understanding of the nature of stem cells and helps efforts to improve techniques to turn mature adult cells into hESCs. In addition, the scientists found that PRDM14 played a key role in hESCs, but not in mouse ESCs.

This significant new finding highlights the fundamental differences between stem cells from different species, and highlights the greater need to use human cells in stem cell research.

"Very little is known about the molecular machines that drive stem cell states or the transcriptional profiles of hESCs. Our study helps to build a better understanding of hESCs and this will help in the development of technologies to further the utilities of these cells such as their potential to be used for clinical and therapeutic applications," said Dr Ng.

"Dr Bard's scientific expertise was invaluable in helping us crack another piece of the stem cell puzzle. I definitely look forward to collaborating with him on more projects that aim to peel away the mysteries surrounding stem cells" he added.

The study has been published in top scientific journal Nature. (ANI)

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