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

Researchers Change Cell Types by Flipping a Single Switch

Published: Friday, December 06, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, December 06, 2013
Bookmark and Share
New findings have identified a method for changing one cell type into another in a process called forced transdifferentiation.

With C. elegans as the animal model, lead author Misty Riddle, a doctoral student in the Rothman Lab, used transcription factor ELT-7 to change the roundworm’s pharynx cells into intestine cells in a single-step process. Every cell has the genetic potential to become any kind of cell. However, the cell’s history and the signals it receives changes the transcription factors it contains and thus determines what kind of cell it will become. A transcription factor is a protein that causes genes to turn on.

“This discovery is quite surprising because it was previously thought that only early embryonic cells could be coaxed into changing their identity this readily,” Riddle said. “The committed cells that we switched are completely remodeled and reprogrammed in every way that we tested.”

Switching one cell type into another to replace lost or damaged tissue is a major focus of regenerative medicine. The stumbling block is that cells are very resistant to changing their identity once they’ve committed to a specific kind.

“Our discovery means it may become possible to create a tissue or organ of one type directly out of one of another type,” says Joel Rothman, professor in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, who heads the lab.

Riddle and her colleagues challenged all C. elegans cells to make the switch to intestine, but only the pharynx cells were able to do so. “We asked skin cells, muscles, neurons to change but found that only the cells in the pharynx were able to transform,” Riddle explained. “So this brings up some big questions. Why aren’t other cells changing their identities? What is special about the cells in the pharynx that allow them to change their identity into intestine?

“Since C. elegans is such an incredible model system we can really tackle these questions,” she continued. “By knocking down certain genes and manipulating the animal, we can begin to better understand the conditions under which skin cells and muscles cells might change their identities. That will help us figure out what is special about the cells in the pharynx.”

Previous studies in the Rothman lab revealed the cascade of transcription factors required for the proper development of the C. elegans intestine. Used in the later stage of intestine development, ELT-7 continues to be expressed for the life of the animal and has important functions not only in gut development but also in gut function.

This study is revolutionary in that researchers have clearly demonstrated that cells are not limited to their original identities. “Think of them as different rooms in a house,” Riddle said.

“Like cells, different rooms in your house have different structures and functions. Changing the function of a room is likely to be easier if the structures are similar, say, turning a bedroom into a living room or vice versa. But changing the bathroom into a living room presents a bigger challenge,” Riddle explained. “Just as some rooms in a house are more easily converted to others, some cell types may be more easily coaxed into changing their identity to another specific type. This doesn’t seem to depend on the relatedness of the cells in terms of when they were born or how closely related they are in their lineage.”

Maybe the heart cell can become a brain cell after all.

As demonstrated by another important finding in the UCSB study, the cells remodeled themselves in a continuous process; there were stages in the remodeling process during which the identity of the cell was mixed. “Going back to the home remodeling example,” Riddle said, “the couch and television were added to the bedroom before the bed and dresser were removed.”

“The key importance of our finding is that we have observed cells undergoing a process of morphing in which one specialized cell type is converted into another of an entirely different type,” Rothman said. “This means that it may be possible to turn any cell into any other cell in a direct conversion. In terms of our understanding of biological constraints over cell identity, we’ve shown a barrier that we believed absolutely prevents cells from switching their identity does not exist. It may one day be possible to switch an entire organ from one kind to another.”


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 3,100+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,500+ 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

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
Science Magazine Names CRISPR ‘Breakthrough of the Year’
In its year-end issue, the journal Science chose the CRISPR genome-editing technology invented at UC Berkeley 2015’s Breakthrough of the Year.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Genome Sequencing May Save California's Legendary Sugar Pine
The genome of California’s legendary sugar pine, which naturalist John Muir declared to be “king of the conifers” more than a century ago, has been sequenced by a research team led by UC Davis scientists.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Cellular “ORACLs” to Aid Drug Discovery
New approach for finding therapeutics is inspired by face-recognition software.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
New Virus Disovered, Linked To Hepatitis C
Study is first to reveal entire genetic makeup of human pegivirus 2.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
CRISPR-Cas9 Helps Uncover Genetics of Exotic Organisms
A new study illustrates the ease with which CRISPR-Cas9 can knock out genes in exotic animals to learn how those genes control growth and development.
Friday, December 11, 2015
UC Davis Cracks the Walnut Genome
Scientists at the University of California, Davis, have for the first time sequenced the genome of a commercial walnut variety.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Scientific News
The Rise of 3D Cell Culture and in vitro Model Systems for Drug Discovery and Toxicology
An overview of the current technology and the challenges and benefits over 2D cell culture models plus some of the latest advances relating to human health research.
Grant Supports Project To Develop Simple Test To Screen For Cervical Cancer
UCLA Engineering announces funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Injecting New Life into Old Antibiotics
A new fully synthetic way to make a class of antibiotics called macrolides from simple building blocks is set to open up a new front in the fight against antimicrobial drug resistance.
Insight into Bacterial Resilience and Antibiotic Targets
Variant of CRISPR technology paired with computerized imaging reveals essential gene networks in bacteria.
Advancing Protein Visualization
Cryo-EM methods can determine structures of small proteins bound to potential drug candidates.
Alzheimer’s Protein Serves as Natural Antibiotic
Alzheimer's-associated amyloid plaques may be part of natural process to trap microbes, findings suggest new therapeutic strategies.
Slime Mold Reveals Clues to Immune Cells’ Directional Abilities
Study from UC San Diego identifies a protein involved in the directional ability of a slime mold.
How Do You Kill A Malaria Parasite?
Drexel University scientists have discovered an unusual mechanism for how two new antimalarial drugs operate: They give the parasite’s skin a boost in cholesterol, making it unable to traverse the narrow labyrinths of the human bloodstream. The drugs also seem to trick the parasite into reproducing prematurely.
Illuminating Hidden Gene Regulators
New super-resolution technique visualizes important role of short-lived enzyme clusters.
Supressing Intenstinal Analphylaxis in Peanut Allergy
Study from National Jewish Health shows that blockade of histamine receptors suppresses intestinal anaphylaxis in peanut allergy.
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
3,100+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,500+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!