Stem cells

  • Basel Researchers Succeed in Cultivating Cartilage from Stem Cells

    Development of cartilage tissue from mesenchymal stem cells after eight weeks in vivo: Stable cartilage tissue, indicated by red staining (left), versus development towards bone tissue (right). Image: University of Basel, Department of Biomedicine

    Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS. Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration.

  • Connecting brain regions in a dish – A new organoid technology to detect malfunctions in the brain

    The novel organoid “fusion” technique is a new method to combine different brain tissues in a dish to observe complex interactions, such as cell migration and axon growth, between different developing brain regions.  Copyright: (c)IMBA

    Scientists at IMBA (Institute of Molecular Biotechnology) describe novel organoid technology combining various brain regions for investigation of epilepsy, and other neurological diseases, as reported in the current issue of Nature Methods. In 2013 researchers led by IMBA scientist Jürgen Knoblich flabbergasted the scientific community. Starting from human stem cells, researchers in his lab managed to grow living three dimensional models of basic units of human brain in a dish. These so called cerebral organoids present an unprecedented 3D cell culture model of human brain development, and have a tremendous potential for medical applications. Thanks to this discovery scientists can examine how networks of living human brain cells develop and function, and how they are affected by different drug compounds or genetic modifications.

  • Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development

    What are they going to be? Hematopoietic stem cells under the microscope: New methods are helping the Helmholtz scientists to predict how they will develop. Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

    Autonomous driving, automatic speech recognition, and the game Go: Deep Learning is generating more and more public awareness. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and their partners at ETH Zurich and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have now used it to determine the development of hematopoietic stem cells in advance. In ‘Nature Methods’ they describe how their software predicts the future cell type based on microscopy images.

  • Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation

    With the atria and major vessels removed, all four valves are clearly visible. Betts, J. Gordon (2013). Anatomy & physiology. pp. 787–846

    Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland have identified a key regulator gene for the formation of cardiac valves - a process crucial to normal embryonic heart development. These results are published in the journal Cell Reports today.

    The heart is the first functional organ that develops in vertebrate embryos. In humans, it starts to beat four weeks into the pregnancy. Unfortunately, congenital heart disease is one of the most common developmental abnormalities and the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. These heart defects often involve malformations of cardiac valves, which are required to regulate the pressure and flow of blood in the cardiac chambers.

  • How to Generate a Brain of Correct Size and Composition

    Confocal image of the embryonic mouse cortex. Green: stem cells; red: intermediate progenitor stage; white: final neurons; blue: nuclei of all cells. IST Austria/Hippenmeyer Group

    During brain development, stem cells generate neurons of different type and function at distinct points in time. IST Austria researchers contribute key experiment to identify essential protein controlling stem cell behavior. To build the neocortex, a brain area involved in higher cognitive functions, stem cells produce billions of neurons of various types. In a Science study, neuroscientists from Switzerland, Belgium, and the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have now shown that, over time, the neocortical stem cells go through various maturation states, each of them leading to a distinct neuron type. Production of the correct neuron type is bound to a specific protein complex.

  • Image correction software simplifies quantification of stem cells

    Mosaic image of a mouse brain slice improved by the software BaSiC. Image: Tingying Peng / TUM/HMGU

    Today, tracking the development of individual cells and spotting the associated factors under the microscope is nothing unusual. However, impairments like shadows or changes in the background complicate the interpretation of data. Now, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a software that corrects images to make hitherto hidden development steps visible.

    When stem cells develop into specialized cells, this happens in multiple steps. But which regulatory proteins are active during the decisive branching on the development path? Using so-called time-lapse microscopy, researchers can observe individual cells at very high time resolutions and, using fluorescent labelling, they can recognize precisely which of these proteins appear when in the cell.

  • New Mouse Model Makes Stem Cells Light up Green

    Scientists at the University of Bonn have found a way to specifically mark multipotent stromal cells. These cells therefore light up green in the microscope image. (c) Martin Breitbach/Uni Bonn

    Multipotent stromal cells have long been a hot topic in medical research. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now found a way to specifically mark these stem cells. This makes it possible to analyze their distribution pattern and their function in living organisms. The study, which included researchers from Oxford University, Tsukuba University and the Karolinska Institute Stockholm, is now being published in the journal “Cell Stem Cell”. 

  • Not Just Housekeeping: A New Way to Control Protein Production in Stem Cells

    Image depicts a E4.5 mouse blastocyst showing high levels of protein synthesis (green) and HTATSF1 expression (red). (c)IMBA

    Cells acquire distinct fates and functions during development. A study from the IMBA reveals a new mechanism of cell fate specification involving the regulation of cell metabolism. Thousands of distinct cell types are needed to build a fully developed newborn. Individual cells take on their identities by switching on distinct sets of genes, producing different sets of RNA and protein molecules. So far, the overall rate of protein synthesis has been regarded as a "housekeeping" activity that does not play a major role in defining cell types. New results from the laboratory of Jürgen Knoblich at the IMBA in Vienna now show this is not quite true.

  • Proven in a Mouse Model: Faulty DNA Repair in Intestinal Stem Cells Leads to Cancer

    Small intestine mucosa, shown here with 400x magnification under the microscope. Cells of the intestinal mucosa (intestinal epithelial cells) - marked in red - develop DNA damage, because the repair enzyme RNase H2b is absent. Photo: Konrad Aden/IKMB

    A study by the Cluster of Excellence "Inflammation at Interfaces" finds a new mechanism by which DNA repair protects the genome and prevents the development of bowel cancer. Cancer is caused by the body's own cells, which change and start growing out of control. With bowel cancer, this affects the cells of the intestinal mucosa. The starting point are mutations, i.e. changes in the genetic information (DNA) of the intestinal stem cells. Their task is to regularly renew the cells of the intestinal mucosa. Intestinal stem cells must retain their ability to divide for their entire lifetime, and are thus particularly susceptible to mutations.

  • Rare blood disease improves the defence against germs

    Blood smear of a myeloproliferative neoplasia patient with a significant increase in the number of platelets (purple) as compared to the clearly larger red blood cells. Ed Uthman/CC BY 2.0

    Researchers of the HZI and of the University of Magdeburg find increased immune reaction associated with a rare bone marrow disease. Patients afflicted by myeloproliferative neoplasia – a group of chronic malignant bone marrow diseases – bear a mutation in their haematopoietic stem cells. The mutation leads to the bone marrow producing too many blood cells, which thickens the blood. This can lead to blood clots or clogged blood vessels, which may trigger, e.g., a stroke. Scientists of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and of the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg recently discovered that certain cells of the immune system also bear this mutation in those patients that possess a particularly large number of altered stem cells. The impact of this scenario on the defence against pathogens was investigated in mice by the scientists. They published their results in Leukemia.

  • Specialized Plant Cells Regain Stem-cell Features to Heal Wounds

    A root tip consists of constantly dividing cells of specific types which originate from a few stem cells in the stem cell niche located in the very tip of the root (white cells). IST Austria/Lukas Hörmayer

    Already specified root cells are reprogrammed to correctly replace dead neighbor cells in newly discovered process of “restorative patterning” | Study published in Cell

    If plants are injured, cells adjacent to the wound fill the gaps with their daughter cells. However, which cells divide to do the healing and how they manage to produce cells that match the cell type of the missing tissue has been unclear. Scientists from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have now shown that to correctly replace dead cells, neighbors to the inside of the wound re-activate their stem cell programs.

  • Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease

    Cross-section of mouse intestines: OLFM4-stem cells (red) are crucial for epithel regeneration. During treatment leading up to allo-hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, they are often destroyed.  Poeck / TUM

    Stem cell transplants can save lives, for example in patients with leukemia. However, these treatments are not free of risks. One complication that may occur is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), basically donor-derived immune cells attacking the recipient’s body. A team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has identified molecular mechanisms that may protect patients against this dangerous response in the future. The key to preventing GVHD is in the gut.

  • Success in the 3D Bioprinting of Cartilage

    Stina Simonsson. Elin Lindström Claessen

    A team of researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy has managed to generate cartilage tissue by printing stem cells using a 3D-bioprinter. The fact that the stem cells survived being printed in this manner is a success in itself. In addition, the research team was able to influence the cells to multiply and differentiate to form chondrocytes (cartilage cells) in the printed structure. The findings have been published in Nature’s Scientific Reports magazine. The research project is being conducted in collaboration with a team of researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology who are experts in the 3D printing of biological materials. Orthopedic researchers from Kungsbacka are also involved in the research collaboration.

  • Targeting a tumor trigger

    Stem cells diagram.

    Heidelberg, 15 March 2017 - Many cancer patients that receive chemotherapy go into remission at first, but relapse after treatment is discontinued. There is increasing evidence that this is due to the presence of cancer stem cells – cells that reproduce indefinitely and may seed new tumors. A research group from Milan, Italy, now devised a strategy to specifically target cancer stem cells in some cancers and reduce their tumor-generating potential. The results are published today in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

    Every tissue of our body has stem cells that continuously divide to replenish the body with new cells. In previous studies, the research team, headed by Pier Paolo Di Fiore and Salvatore Pece, investigated the role of a protein called Numb in maintaining stem cells in normal mammary gland development in mice.

  • Tumor induction from a distance

    Graphics: Ralf Baumeister

    Researchers suggest that neighboring tissues can send signals inducing tumorigenesis.

    Current view is that cancer development is initiated from cells that acquire initial DNA mutations. These in turn provoke additional defects, and ultimately the affected cells begin to proliferate in an uncontrolled manner to develop primary tumors. These can later spread and create metastases, or secondary tumors, in other parts of the body. However, according to a study by researchers at the University of Freiburg, stem cells resulting in metastasizing tumors may also be induced from neighboring tissues, and do not necessarily require initial DNA damage in the affected cells themselves.

  • What Makes Stem Cells into Perfect Allrounders

    Just a few days old embryonic cell clusters: with functional Pramel7 (left), without the protein (right) – the development of the stem cells remains stuck and the embyos die. Paolo Cinelli, University Hospital Zurich

    Researchers from the University of Zurich and the University Hospital Zurich have discovered the protein that enables natural embryonic stem cells to form all body cells. In the case of embryonic stem cells maintained in cell cultures, this allrounder potential is limited. Scientists want to use this knowledge to treat large bone fractures with stem cells.

    Stem cells are considered biological allrounders because they have the potential to develop into the various body cell types. For the majority of stem cells, however, this designation is too far-reaching. Adult stem cells, for example, can replace cells in their own tissue in case of injury, but a fat stem cell will never generate a nerve or liver cell. Scientists therefore distinguish between multipotent adult stem cells and the actual allrounders – the pluripotent embryonic stem cells.