Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

UT Southwestern Researchers Identify Mechanism that Maintains Stem Cells

Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Immune-system receptor maintains stemness of normal adult stem cells and helps leukemia cells growth.

An immune-system receptor plays an unexpected but crucially important role in keeping stem cells from differentiating and in helping blood cancer cells grow, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center report in the journal Nature.

“Cancer cells grow rapidly in part because they fail to differentiate into mature cells. Drugs that induce differentiation can be used to treat cancers,” said Dr. Chengcheng “Alec” Zhang, assistant professor in UT Southwestern’s departments of physiology and developmental biology.

“Our research identified a protein receptor on cancer cells that induces differentiation, and knowing the identity of this protein should facilitate the development of new drugs to treat cancers.”

The family of proteins investigated in the study could help open a new field of biology integrating immunology with stem cell and cancer research, he added.

“The receptor we identified turned out to be a protein called a classical immune inhibitory receptor, which is known to maintain stemness of normal adult stem cells and to be important in the development of leukemia,” he said.

Stemness refers to the blood stem cells’ potential to develop into a range of different kinds of cells as needed, for instance to replenish red blood cells lost to bleeding or to produce more white blood cells to fight off infection.

Once stem cells differentiate into adult cells, they cannot go back to being stem cells. Current thinking is that the body has a finite number of stem cells and it is best to avoid depleting them, Dr. Zhang explained.

Prior to this study, no high-affinity receptors had been identified for the family of seven proteins called the human angiopoetic-like proteins. These seven proteins are known to be involved in inflammation, supporting the activity of stem cells, breaking down fats in the blood, and growing new blood vessels to nourish tumors.

Because the receptor to which these proteins bind had not been identified, the angiopoetic-like proteins were referred to as “orphans,” he said.

The researchers found that the human immune-inhibitory receptor LILRB2 and a corresponding receptor on the surface of mouse cells bind to several of the angiopoetic-like proteins.

Further studies, Dr. Zhang said, showed that two of the seven family members bind particularly well to the LILRB2 receptor and that binding exerts an inhibitory effect on the cell, similar to a car’s brakes.

In the case of stem cells, inhibition keeps them in their stem state. They retain their potential to mature into all kinds of blood cells as needed but they don’t use up their energy differentiating into mature cells.

That inhibition helps stem cells maintain their potential to create new stem cells because in addition to differentiation, self-renewal is the cells’ other major activity, Dr. Zhang said. He stressed that the inhibition doesn’t cause them to create new stem cells but does preserve their potential to do so.

In future research, the scientists hope to find subtle differences between stem cells and leukemia cells that will identify treatments to block the receptors’ action only in leukemia.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Boosting Gut Bacteria Defense System May Lead to Better Treatments
Life-threatening bloodstream infections reversed by enhancing a specific immune defense response.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Immunity Enzyme Defends Against Tuberculosis Infection
Study shows that cGAS enzyme is essential for defense against the tuberculosis bacteria.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Researchers Find New Mechanism That Controls Immune Responses
The findings appear online in the journal Science.
Friday, February 13, 2015
New And Beneficial Function Of Endogenous Retroviruses In Immune Response Identified
ERV play a critical role in the body’s immune defense against common bacterial and viral pathogens.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Scientists Identify New and Beneficial Function of Endogenous Retroviruses
Researchers found that ERV play a critical role in the body’s immune defense against common bacterial and viral pathogens.
Friday, December 19, 2014
UT Southwestern Researcher Selected for ASBMB Merck Award
Award recognizes Dr. Zhijian Chen’s outstanding contributions to research in biochemistry and molecular biology.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Cellular Force That Drives Allergy and Asthma Can be Blocked by Interferon
Type I interferons block the development of allergy- and asthma-driving Th2 cells.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Study Identifies Potential New Strategy to Improve Odds of Corneal Transplant Acceptance
Study findings were reported in the December issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Identifying How Body Clock Affects Inflammation
UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report that disrupting the light-dark cycle of mice increased their susceptibility to inflammatory disease.
Friday, November 08, 2013
Promising New Approach to Drug-Resistant Infections
A new type of antibiotic called a PPMO, which works by blocking genes essential for bacterial reproduction, successfully killed a multidrug-resistant germ common to health care settings.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Researchers Identify New Source of Powerful Immunity Protein
New cellular source for IFN-? that keeps viruses from replicating and stimulates the immune system.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Dr. Bruce Beutler Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
AAAS has elected Nobel Laureate Dr. Beutler of UT Southwestern Medical Center to membership.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Two UT Southwestern Scientists Honored as Rising Stars in Texas Research
Dr. Lora Hooper and Dr. Youxing Jiang are among the four chosen for the 2013 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Molecular Biologist Wins Prestigious NAS Award
Dr. Chen will be honored on April 30 in a ceremony during the NAS’ 149th annual meeting.
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Internationally Acclaimed Immunologist to Lead New Center at UT Southwestern
Dr. Bruce Beutler has been appointed the founding director of a new Center for the Genetics of Host Defense.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Scientific News
3 Ways Viruses Have Changed Science for the Better
Viruses are really good at what they do, and we’ve been able to harness their skills to learn about – and potentially improve – human health in several ways.
Mixed Up Cell Transportation Key Piece of ALS and Dementia Puzzle
Researchers from the University of Toronto are one step closer to solving this incredibly complex puzzle, offering hope for treatment.
Antibody Treatment Efficacious in Psoriasis
An experimental, biologic treatment, brodalumab, achieved 100 percent reduction in psoriasis symptoms in twice as many patients as a second, commonly used treatment, according to the results of a multicenter clinical trial led by Mount Sinai researchers.
Four Gut Bacteria Decrease Asthma Risk in Infants
New research by scientists at UBC and BC Children’s Hospital finds that infants can be protected from getting asthma if they acquire four types of gut bacteria by three months of age.
Escape Prevention
Studying flu virus structure brings us a step closer to a permanent vaccine.
New Molecular Marker for Killer Cells
Cell marker enables prognosis about the course of infections.
Editing Genes to Create HIV Killers
Seattle scientists have managed to genetically transform human cells in the lab from HIV targets to HIV killers, and the technique could have implications for cancer and other diseases.
Antibiotic Overuse Might be Why so Many People Have Allergies
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drug resistant bacteria cause 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses each year.
Molecular ‘Kiss Of Death’ Flags Pathogens For Destruction
Researchers have discovered that our bodies mark pathogen-containing vacuoles for destruction by using a molecule called ubiquitin, commonly known as the "kiss of death."
Opening the Door to Safer, More Precise Cancer Therapies
New method regulates when, and how strongly, cancer-killing therapeutic T cells are activated.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos