Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A newly discovered DNA-targeting molecule could inspire the first tissue regeneration therapies. The synthetic molecule can cause stem cells to transform into heart muscle cells.
The scientists responsible for the new molecule believe their breakthrough could be used to turn stem cells into a variety of cell types -- paving the way for tissue regeneration.
Human induced pluripotent stem cells are adult stem cells capable of forming any type of cell. Their transformation is dictated by a series of genetic and protein signals. This gene expression process is triggered by specific molecules.
Scientists have previously discovered molecules capable of switching on genetic signals, but have yet to find molecules with the ability to turn off specific genetic signals in pluripotent stem cells.
Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan, however, have developed a new synthetic molecule, PIP-S2, that can alter gene signaling in hiPSCs. The molecule works by binding with a specific section of genetic coding.
The molecule's position blocks the parking spot of SOX2, a protein that keeps hiPSCs in their 'pluripotent' state. With SOX2 blocked, the hiPSC converts to a more easily manipulated intermediary cell type called a mesoderm. Researchers were then able to convert the mesoderm into heart muscle cells using a different signalling inhibitor molecule.
Researchers believe they can use their new molecule to convert hiPSCs into a variety of cell types.
They detailed their breakthrough in a new paper published this week in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.
"To our knowledge, this work reports the first DNA-binding synthetic molecule capable of guiding the differentiation of hiPSCs into a particular cell lineage," researcher Hiroshi Sugiyama said in a news release.