A Korean husband-and-wife scientist team has made headway in adult stem cell research by discovering a gene in charge of differentiating the parent cells in human bodies.
The team, co-headed by Professor Hong Jeong-ho at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Prof. Hwang Eun-sook at Harvard University, said yesterday that they pinpointed the gene, named TAZ. TAZ regulates adult stem cells’ growth into bone cells while the protein prevents adult stem cells from maturing into fat cells.
“Up until now, researchers have dug up many factors involved in the differentiation of adult stem cells. But this is the first time that a gene modulating all of the factors has been found.” - Professor Hong said.
Hong said he is now carrying out follow-up research to develop a way to make drugs with the substance that regulates the differentiation of adult stem cells with his wife and colleague, Professor Hwang.
“We expect TAZ to be effective in dealing with patients suffering from obesity or osteoporosis, diseases in which the bones become thin and susceptible to fracture.” - Hong said.
Their finding was featured in the latest edition of the U.S.-based weekly Science.
The mechanism of either adult or embryonic stem cell differentiation has been the most sought-after discovery to both camps of stem cell researchers. Geneticists believe the next target for embryonic stem cell study is to grow the versatile cells, which can become all cell types in a body, into specific tissues or organs.
Adult stem cell researchers also agree that knowing the secret of differentiating adult stem cells, which typically create specific cell types similar to their tissues of origin, will increase their therapeutic applications.