Washington: To fight maladies ranging from
arthritis to broken bones that won`t heal, scientists have
found a new way.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical
Center developed a technique to controlling and delaying
growth of the stem cells, called mesenchymal, which was a
formidable hurdle in the treatment of osteoporosis and broken
They found a key molecular player to keep stem cells in
a sort of extended infancy, which will make treatment with the
cells in the future more likely.
In the study, published in Development journal, the team
showed in mice that a molecule called Notch, which is well
known for the influence it wields on stem cells that form the
blood and the nervous system, is a key factor in the
development of mesenchymal stem cells.
Mesenchymal makes up a tiny fraction of the cells in the
bone marrow and other tissues.
They found that Notch prevents stem cells from maturing
and when the Notch pathway was activated, the stem cells
didn`t progress as usual. Instead, they remained indefinitely
in an immature state and did not go on to become bone cells,
cartilage cells, or cells for connective tissue.
"A big problem has been that these stem cells like to
differentiate rapidly -- oftentimes too rapidly to make them
very useful," said lead author Matthew J Hilton.
"It`s been very hard to get a useful number of stem
cells that can still become any one of several types of tissue
a patient might need. Having a large population of true
skeletal stem cells available is a key consideration for new
therapies and that`s been a real roadblock so far," Hilton
The team also settled a long-standing question,
fingering the molecule RBPJ-kappa as the molecule through
which Notch works in mesenchymal stem cells. This will explain
how Notch works in bone and cartilage development.
Earlier study showed that Notch is a critical regulator
of the development of bone and cartilage.
The latest study extends those observations, providing
important details that suggest appropriate activation and
manipulation of the Notch pathway may provide doctors with a
tool to maintain and expand mesenchymal stem cells for use in
The work is part of ongoing research around the world
aimed at harnessing the promise of stem cells for human