Raise your hand if you've ever rolled your eyes at well-meaning advice from a parent or grandparent--and then went on to do what they'd suggested. (Hoping they wouldn't notice, of course.) Apparently adult stem cells--responsible for replenishing hard-working, short-lived tissues like skin--also need some reminding from their predecessors to keep from getting out of line. Recent research from dermatologist Paul Khavari's lab has identified a molecule important to maintaining patterns of DNA modification that keep stem cells from differentiating, or specializing, before they're needed. The finding, which was published online in Nature on Jan. 17 (subscription required), is important because too little differentiation can inhibit wound healing, and too much can drain the stem cell pool and lead to cancers.
"We're starting to understand the molecular mechanism of cellular memory," said Khavari, MD, PhD. "How a stem cell remembers what it is, and why it might go astray." You can read more about the research in our news release.
Photo via the Khavari lab. Left to right: graduate student Daniel Webster, undergraduate Lilly Zhu, professor Paul Khavari, lead author and postdoctoral fellow George Sen, and graduate student Jason Reuter.