Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Vitamin C Helps Control Gene Activity in Stem Cells

Published: Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Bookmark and Share
UCSF-led research finding could lead to improved treatments for cancer, in vitro fertilization.

Vitamin C affects whether genes are switched on or off inside mouse stem cells, suggesting that it could may play a fundamental role in helping to guide normal development in mice, humans and other animals, a team led by UC San Francisco researchers has discovered.

The researchers found that vitamin C assists enzymes that play a crucial role in releasing the brakes that keep certain genes from becoming activated in the embryo soon after fertilization, when egg and sperm fuse.

The discovery might eventually lead to the use of vitamin C to improve results of in vitro fertilization, in which early embryos now are typically grown without the vitamin. It also could help treat cancer, in which tumor cells abnormally engage or release these brakes on gene activation.

The researchers' study was published June 30 in the journal Nature.

In the near term, stem cell scientists may begin incorporating vitamin C more systematically into their procedures for growing the most healthy and useful stem cells, according to UCSF stem cell scientist Miguel Ramalho-Santos, PhD, who led the study. In fact, the unanticipated discovery emerged from an effort to compare different formulations of the growth medium, a kind of nutrient broth used to grow mouse embryonic stem cells in the lab.

A Successful Accident in the Lab

Rather than building on any previous body of scientific work, the identification of the link between vitamin C and the activation of genes that should be turned on in early development was serendipitous, Ramalho-Santos said. “We bumped into this result,” he said.

Working in Ramalho-Santos’ lab, graduate student Kathryn Blaschke and postdoctoral fellow Kevin Ebata, PhD, were comparing different commercial growth media for mouse stem cells. The researchers began exploring how certain ingredients altered gene activity within the stem cells. Eventually they discovered that adding vitamin C led to increased activity of key enzymes that release the brakes that can prevent activation of an array of genes.

The brakes on gene activation that vitamin C helps release are molecules called methyl groups. These methyl groups are added to DNA at specific points along the genome to prevent specific genes from getting turned on.

During the development of multicellular organisms – humans among them – different patterns of methylation arise in different cells as methyl groups are biochemically attached to DNA at specific points along the genome during successive cell divisions. Normally this gradual methylation, a key part of the developmental program, is not reversible.

But after fertilization and during early development, a class of enzymes called “Tet” acts on a wide array of the methyl groups on the DNA to remove these brakes, so that genes can be activated as needed.

The UCSF researchers demonstrated that Tet enzymes require vitamin C for optimal activity as they act to remove the methyl groups from the DNA and to stimulate gene activity that more faithfully mimics in cultured stem cells what occurs at early stages of development in the mouse embryo.

“Potential roles for vitamin C in the clinic — including in embryo culture media used during in vitro fertilization, which currently do not contain vitamin C, and in cancers driven by aberrant DNA methylation — deserve exploration,” Ramalho-Santos, said.

In addition, scientists previously have found that many adult tissues also have stem cells, which can generate a variety of cell types found within a specific tissue. This raises the possibility that vitamin C might help maintain healthy stem cell populations in the adult, according to Ramalho-Santos.

“Although we did not in this paper address the function of Vitamin C in adult tissues, given the roles that Tet enzymes are now known to play in adult tissues, we anticipate that Vitamin C might also regulate Tet function in the adult,” Ramalho-Santos said. “This remains to be determined.”

The Power of Vitamin C

Vitamin C already has become a popular supplement in recent decades, and potential health benefits of vitamin C supplementation continue to be investigated in clinical trials. It has been more than 80 years since vitamin C was first recognized as vital to prevent scurvy, a now-rare connective-tissue disease caused by the failure of another enzyme that also relies on vitamin C.

The function of vitamin C as an antioxidant to prevent chemical damage is the likely reason why some commercial suppliers of growth media have included it in their products, Ramalho-Santos said, but other antioxidant molecules cannot replace Vitamin C in the enhancement of the activity of Tet enzymes.

Despite its importance, humans, unlike most animals and plants, cannot synthesize their own Vitamin C and must obtain it through their diet. The mouse makes vitamin C, but that fact does not diminish the expectation that the new findings will also apply to human development, according to Ramalho-Santos. Only adult liver cells in the mouse make vitamin C, he said.

Ramalho-Santos now aims to explore the newly discovered phenomenon in the living mouse. “The next step is to study vitamin C and gene expression in vivo,” he said.

The UCSF group led a team effort that included researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, California. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.


Further Information

Join For Free

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 3,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,300+ 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 TechnologyNetworks.com 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

RNA-Binding Proteins Role in ALS Revealed
Researchers describe how damage to RNA-binding protein contributes to ALS, isolating a possible therapeutic target.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Zika Virus Infection Alters Human and Viral RNA
Researchers have discovered that Zika infections results in human and viral genetic modification.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Genome Sequencing May Help Avert Banana Armageddon
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and in the Netherlands have discovered how three fungal diseases have evolved into a lethal threat to the world’s bananas.
Friday, August 12, 2016
‘Human-on-a-Chip’ Could Replace Animal Testing
Researchers are developing a “human-on-a-chip,” a miniature external replication of the human body, integrating biology and engineering with a combination of microfluidics and multi-electrode arrays.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Unveiling the Complexity of Mysterious Protein Folding
Imagine trying to reverse engineer a car when all you have is a finished product or a box full of parts — no instructions.
Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Study Identifies How Brain Connects Memories Across Time
UCLA Neuroscientists have boost ability of aging brain to recapture links between related memories.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Transcription Factor Isoforms Implicated in Colon Diseases
UC Riverside study explains how distribution of two forms of a transcription factor in the colon influence risk of disease.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
An E.coli Detector May be in Your Hands Soon
Hand-held device that can be used to detect a variety of pathogens—including foodborne pathogens like E. coli—at all stages in the food supply chain, from fields to restaurants may be available soon.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Fructose Alters Hundreds of Brain Genes
UCLA scientists report that diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the damage.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Study Yields the Key to Effective Personalized Medicine
A team of UCLA bioengineers and surgeons has taken a major step toward making personalized medicine a reality.
Monday, April 11, 2016
Tracking RNA in Live Cells
Technique may open doors to new treatments for many conditions, from cancer to autism.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Cat Stem Cell Therapy Gives Humans Hope
By the time Bob the cat came to the UC Davis veterinary hospital, he had used up most of his nine lives.
Monday, February 08, 2016
Crowdfunding the Fight Against Cancer
From budding social causes to groundbreaking businesses to the next big band, crowdfunding has helped connect countless worthy projects with like-minded people willing to support their efforts, even in small ways. But could crowdfunding help fight cancer?
Monday, February 08, 2016
Toxic Pollutants Found in Fish Across the World's Oceans
Scripps researchers' analysis shows highly variable pollutant concentrations in fish meat.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Key Enzyme in Pierce’s Disease Grapevine Damage Uncovered
UC Davis plant scientists have identified an enzyme that appears to play a key role in the insect-transmitted bacterial infection of grapevines with Pierce’s disease, which annually costs California’s grape and wine industries more than $100 million.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Scientific News
Big Genetics in BC: The American Society for Human Genetics 2016 Meeting
Themes at this year's meeting ranged from the verification, validation, and sharing of data, to the translation of laboratory findings into actionable clinical results.
Stem Cells in Drug Discovery
Potential Source of Unlimited Human Test Cells, but Roadblocks Remain.
Cancer Genetics: Key to Diagnosis, Therapy
When applied judiciously, cancer genetics directs caregivers to the right drug at the right time, while sparing patients of unnecessary or harmful treatments.
BGI Sequences Gingko Tree, Revealing Large, Highly Repetitive Genome
Researchers at BGI have sequenced the more than 10-gigabase ginkgo genome to find a high number of repetitive sequences as well as a number of gene clusters that appear to be involved in defense mechanisms.
Survey of New York City Soil Uncovers Medicine-Making Microbes
Microbes have long been an invaluable source of new drugs. And to find more, we may have to look no further than the ground beneath our feet.
Accelerating the Detection of Foodborne Bacterial Outbreaks
The speed of diagnosis of foodborne bacterial outbreaks could be improved by a new technique developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Making Personalized Medicine a Reality
Groundbreaking technique developed at McMaster University is helping to pave the way for advances in personalized medicine.
Scientists Identify Unique Genomic Features in Testicular Cancer
The findings may shed light on factors in other cancers that influence their sensitivity to chemotherapy.
Top 10 Life Science Innovations of 2016
2016 has seen the release of some truly innovative products. To help you digest these developments, The Scientist have listed their top picks for the year.
BioCision Forms MedCision
The new company will focus on technologies for the management and automation of vital clinical processes.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
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
3,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,300+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!