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Mechanism discovered that allows differentiated cell to reactivate as a stem cell

IRB researchers participated in the discovery

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A study led by Jordi Casanova, researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and professor at the CSIC Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona (IBMB), and Xavier Franch-Marro, senior researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF), reveals a mechanism that allows a differentiated cell to maintain its ability to reactivate as a stem cell.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, was performed with tracheal cells from fruit-fly larvae (Drosophilia).

Facultative cells, those that preserve their ability to reactivate as stem cells, are set apart by the fact that they haven’t entered the endocycle –the process through which a cell reproduces its genome several times without dividing. Scientists have seen that once a cell enters the endocycle it loses this ability. So, as researcher Jordi Casanova explains, “inhibition of endocycle entry confers the cells the capacity to reactivate as stem cells.”

Taking into account that cell entry into the endocycle is associated with expression of the Fzr gene, researchers have found that it is inhibition of this gene that prevents a cell from entering the endocycle. This, therefore, allows cells to preserve their ability to reactivate as stem cells.

This is an important breakthrough in regenerative medicine, as knowing which mechanisms allow facultative cells –which make up already formed structures and organs– to maintain their ability to reactivate as stem cells is a key challenge facing the sector. In the liver, for example, this ability allows cells to grow new liver tissue. This makes it possible for the organ to regenerate after a transplant. 

Fruit-fly larvae are used to study characteristics of stem cells. - Photo: © Wikipedia

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