Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
>
Scientific Community
 
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

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 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,200+ 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

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
Scientific News
Bile Acid Supports Production of Blood Stem Cells
A research group at Lund University has been able to show that bile acid is transferred from the mother to the foetus via the placenta to enable the foetus to produce blood stem cells.
New Biomarker to Assess Stem Cells Developed
A research team led by scientists from UCL have found a way to assess the viability of 'manufactured' stem cells known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The team's discovery offers a new way to fast-track screening methods used in stem cell research.
Tricked-Out Immune Cells Could Attack Cancer
New cell-engineering technique may lead to precision immunotherapies.
Edited Stem Cells Offer Hope of Precision Therapy for Blindness
Findings raise the possibility of treating blinding eye diseases using a patient's own corrected cells as replacement tissue.
Hacking the Programs of Cancer Stem Cells
All tumor cells are the offspring of a single, aberrant cell, but they are not all alike.
Newfound Strength in Regenerative Medicine
A promising new approach uses direct mechanical stimulation to repair severely damaged skeletal muscles.
Mapping out Cell Conversion
Researchers develop algorithm that takes the field of cell reprogramming forward.
Donor's Genotype Controls the Differentiation of IPS Cells
Pluripotent stem cells derived from different cell types are equally susceptible to reprogramming, indicates a recent study by the University of Helsinki and the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland. However, the genotype of the donor strongly influences the differentiation of the stem cell.
Signals That Make Early Stem Cells Identified
Researchers at The Rockefeller University have identified a new mechanism by which cells are instructed during development to become stem cells
Healing Scarred Hearts
Findings suggest stem cells may one day be used to regenerate damaged tissue after heart attack.
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
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!