Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center sought to clarify the fate-determining role that Notch protein played in human embryonic stem cell development, the researchers said in a release issued by Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
"If you can understand the mechanisms involved in lineage commitment, basically you can open the door to a lot of things," says Dr. Xiaobing Yu, an Institute for Cell Engineering research associate at Johns Hopkins.
Having such an understanding could help scientists program embryonic stem cells to replace cells patients lose because of injury or disease, Yu said.
In working with embryonic mouse cells, researchers found that without Notch, cells did not grow into any of the three cell types that make up a developing human embryo.
Yu said human embryonic stem cells could "become all cell types if they're provoked to differentiate randomly. In the case of treating blood diseases, it's important to be able to ensure that the stem cells become only blood cells, not nerve or liver cells."