UTX-JMJD3, a new gene family which controls the expression of genes crucial for stem cell maintenance and differentiation has been identified by the researchers at BRIC, University of Copenhagen. These results have been obtained by using both human and mouse stem cells, as well as by studying the devel-opment of the round worm, C. elegans.
Now it is important to know how stem cells work? All organisms consist of a number of different cell types each producing different proteins. The nerve cells produce proteins necessary for the nerve cell function; the muscle cells proteins necessary for the muscle function and so on. All these specialised cells originate from the same cell type — the embryonic stem cells. In a highly controlled process called differentiation, the stem cells are induced to become specialised cells.
The new findings are in line with a number of recent publications that support the idea that differentiation may not entirely be a “one-way process”, and may have impact on the therapeutic use of stem cells for the treatment of various genetic diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.