EVANSTON, Ill., Aug. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have found a new mechanism for cell fate determination -- how one cell can differ from another despite having the same genetic material.
Northwestern University researchers say their yeast study demonstrates why mothers and daughters differ in gene expression.
By studying yeast, whose entire genome is known, scientists say they can learn the basics of cell division and apply that knowledge to the human system. The researchers said their findings about cell fate determination could lead to a better understanding of healthy human cells, what goes awry in cancer cells and how human stem cells and germ cells work.
"Cancer may reflect a partial and aberrant loss of differentiated character, in which cells that were formerly specified to perform a specific task 'forget' that, and become more like the rapidly dividing stem cells from which they came," said Assistant Professor Eric Weiss, who led the study that included scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Understanding how differentiated states are specified might help us figure out how to remind cancer cells to go back to their original tasks or fates -- or, more likely, die," he said.
The research appears in the journal PLoS Biology.