Gene silencing directs muscle-derived stem cells to become bone-forming cells

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

More Adult Stem Cell (ASC) advances you won't hear about in the MSM:

Using a relatively new technology called RNA interference to turn off genes that regulate cell differentiation, University of Pittsburgh researchers have demonstrated they can increase the propensity of muscle-derived stem cells (MDSCs) to become bone-forming cells.

Why is this development important, you ask?

Cells can be divided into three primary classifications: endodermal (interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs), mesodermal (muscle, bone, blood, urogenital), and ectodermal (epidermal tissues and nervous system). Bone and muscle cells are mesodermal tissue. For quite a while now, ASCs have demonstrated multipotency; this development brings the possibility of ASC pluripotency closer to reality.

Of course, if ASCs can be coaxed into pluripotency, the necessity for embryonic stem cells evaporates.

The practical result of the research:

Based on these results, the investigators believe that by turning off specific genetic factors they can control the capacity of MDSCs as a means of treating various musculoskeletal diseases and injuries.

And, the future benefit [emphasis added]:

"By understanding the genetic mechanisms that regulate a cell's propensity to differentiate into one type of cell line over another, we may be able to regulate their ability to generate bone for the treatment of various diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system, such as osteoporosis or severe fractures," said first author Jonathan B. Pollett, Ph.D., research associate, department of orthopaedic surgery, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

This isn't pie-in-the-sky hope; this is real promise.