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

Stem Cells are Wired for Cooperation, Down to the DNA

Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Study reveals network of genes that safeguard cooperation in stem cells and the developing embryo.

We often think of human cells as tiny computers that perform assigned tasks, where disease is a result of a malfunction.   But in the current issue of Science, researchers at The Mount Sinai Medical Center offer a radical view of health — seeing it more as a cooperative state among cells, while they see disease as result of cells at war that fight with each other for domination.

Their unique approach is backed by experimental evidence. The researchers show a network of genes in cells, which includes the powerful tumor suppressor p53, which enforce a cooperative state within cells—rather like the queen bee in a beehive. Disease or disorder occurs when these enforcer genes are mutated, allowing competition between cells to ensue.

"Both competition and cooperation drive evolution, and we are wired for cooperation all the way down to our genes," says the study’s senior investigator, Thomas P. Zwaka, MD, PhD, Professor at the Black Family Stem Cell Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The findings, if backed by future research, offer a new way to address disease, Dr. Zwaka says. Understanding the genetic basis of cooperative and competitive cellular behaviors could explain how cancer and immune system dysfunction develops, he says. "If a cell has lost a gene that fosters communication among cells, it may dominate other cells by ignoring signals to stop proliferating. It also makes sense that the immune system might detect and attack cells that are not cooperating. Failure to cooperate may also underlie development of birth defects."

He adds that it may be possible to flip the cooperation switch back on therapeutically, or to manipulate stem-like cells to misbehave in a way that produces replacement cells for regenerative medicine.

"Cell misbehave, they are unpredictable. They do not operate like little machines," he says. "What our study suggests is that cooperation is so central to our evolution that we have genetic mechanisms to protect us against cheating and dominating behavior."

A network of genes with an ancient function

The research team, which also includes study first author Marion Dejosez, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Icahn School at Mount Sinai, took a long view toward the behavior of cells. They wondered how it was that cells, which lived on earth as single units for hundreds of millions of years, could effectively bundle themselves together to perform specific tasks. "Cells started somehow to form alliances, and to cooperate, and obviously this multicellularity had certain advantages."

But they also questioned what happened to the "cheating" behavior that can be seen in single cells, such as amoeba, that live in colonies — competitive behavior that allows the cell to gain a reproductive advantage without contributing its fair share to the community.

They conducted a genetic screen in stem cells to look for mutants that allow cells to "misbehave—to become a little antisocial and do things they wouldn’t normally do," Dr. Zwaka says.  The screen picked up about 100 genes, which seem to cluster together into a network.

The team focused on three of those genes—p53, long known as the guardian of the genome, Topoisomerase 1 (Top1), which control genomic stability, and olfactory receptors involved in the sensation of smell.

"We could understand that p53 might foster cooperation, because loss of p53 function is a step in the development of many cancers. But finding that top1 and olfactory receptors may have the same function was a surprise," he says. "We think these genes have the ancient function of safeguarding multicellular organisms by helping cells to coordinate their activities."

The scientists then tested the effects of knocking down these genes in developing mouse embryos.  To their surprise, p53 and Top1 knockdown embryos developed normally—perhaps because other intact social enforcement genes took over.

"This showed us that mutant cells only misbehave when they are around normal cells. They become competitive, perhaps promoting an evolutionary advance," Dr. Zwaka says. "When all the cells are the same, either all mutated or all normal, they cooperate with each other.

"This study suggests that cell cooperation, altruistic behavior, cheating, and other so-called social behaviors are wired into cells via the genome at the early primitive stage," he says. "Perhaps there is no coincidence that amoeba, insects, animals, the human culture and society, generally follow innate rules of cooperation. Darwin’s explanation of evolution as a struggle for existence needs to be tempered with an acknowledgment of the importance of cooperation in the evolution of complexity."


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 2,400+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ 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

More Accurate and Comprehensive Whole Genome Assembly
Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have developed a new approach to build nearly complete genomes by combining high-throughput DNA sequencing with genome mapping.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Blood Test Predicts Severity of Peanut and Seafood Allergies
Skin prick tests measure levels of allergen-specific IgE to detect food allergies.
Friday, April 03, 2015
Cell Powerhouse Sequencing Technology Provides Deeper Look at Inherited Disease Risk
A new sequencing technique may provide a clearer picture of how genes in mitochondria, the “powerhouses” that turn sugar into energy in human cells, shape each person’s inherited risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Friday, April 03, 2015
Master Switch Found to Stop Tumor Cell Growth by Inducing Dormancy
Commonly used anticancer drugs may help to make tumor cells dormant.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Mount Sinai Scientists and International Team Shed New Light on Schizophrenia
Genes and pathways identified could inform new approaches to treatment and address acute need for drug development for this disorder.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Researchers Identify Protein That Keeps Blood Stem Cells Healthy as They Age
Early findings may help to reduce risk of age-related blood cancers.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Collaborate
Partnership will accelerate the pace of discovery and innovation in Biomedical Sciences.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
High-Throughput Sequencing Shows Potentially Hundreds of Gene Mutations Related To Autism
Autism Sequencing Consortium discovers six new drug targets through large-scale studies.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Scientific News
Study Finds Brain Chemicals that Keep Wakefulness in Check
Researchers to develop new drugs that promote better sleep, or control hyperactivity in people with mania.
Sorting Through Cellular Statistics
Aaron Dinner, professor in chemistry, and his graduate student Herman Gudjonson are trying to read the manual of life, DNA, as part of the Dinner group’s research into bioinformatics—the application of statistics to biological research.
Playing 'Tag' with Pollution lets Scientists See Who's It
Using a climate model that can tag sources of soot from different global regions and can track where it lands on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers have determined which areas around the plateau contribute the most soot — and where.
Women’s Immune System Genes Operate Differently from Men’s
A new technology reveals that immune system genes switch on and off differently in women and men, and the source of that variation is not primarily in the DNA.
Long Telomeres Associated with Increased Lung Cancer Risk
Genetic predisposition for long telomeres predicts increased lung adenocarcinoma risk.
First Artificial Ribosome Designed
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins and enzymes within the cell.
High-Resolution 3D Images Reveal the Muscle Mitochondrial Power Grid
NIH mouse study overturns scientific ideas on energy distribution in muscle.
Expanding the Brain
A team of researchers has identified more than 40 new “imprinted” genes, in which either the maternal or paternal copy of a gene is expressed while the other is silenced.
Identifying a Key Growth Factor in Cell Proliferation
Researchers discover that aspartate is a limiter of cell proliferation.
Study Uncovers Target for Preventing Huntington’s Disease
Scientists from Cardiff University believe that a treatment to prevent or delay the symptoms of Huntington’s disease could now be much closer, following a major breakthrough.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

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
2,400+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!