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The developmental on-switch

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Posted August 20, 2013
The developmental on-switch

The developmental on-switch
The Pou5f1 protein acts as an on-switch for embryonic development in zebrafish. Credit: Wolfgang Driever

German researchers have demonstrated for the first time why the molecular cocktail responsible for generating stem cells works. Sox2 and Oct4 are proteins whose effect on cells resembles that of an eraser: They remove all of the cell’s previous experiences and transform it into a so-called pluripotent stem cell. Like cells in the embryo, this stem cell can then develop into all forms of tissue. The discoverers of this reprogramming technique received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012. However, until now scientists did not understand precisely why these proteins can reprogram cells and what function they have in the embryo.

A team from the Department of Developmental Biology and the Cluster of Excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies, led by Dr. Daria Onichtchouk and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Driever, has discovered that the Oct4 protein in the zebrafish embryo, which is initially provided by the mother, is responsible for switching on the embryo’s genes for the first time, thus initiating the animal’s independent development. Young embryonic cells can develop into all tissues and cell types found in the body, just like cultures of the so-called pluripotent stem cells. These multi-talented cells are the focus of much attention in biomedical research because experts hope to use them to regenerate damaged organs without having to resort to embryonic stem cells.

Read more at: Phys.org

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