24 Jun '11, 9am
Working Smarter: Singapore scientists discover how to control fate of stem cells w/o risk of developing cancer cells.
Dr Kian Leong Lee and his team of scientists studied how a single signaling system known as the Nodal/Activin pathway tells stem cells what cell type they should eventually become. The pathway is able to specify a wide range of eventual cell types, challenging the current belief that chemical signaling systems are highly specific and only control a limited number of outcomes. This discovery is a major step forward for stem cell therapies and personalised medicine; by exploiting this signaling system, scientists will be able to control the eventual fate of a stem cell by simply adjusting the chemical environment of a cell. This method of controlling stem cell differentiation also avoids modifying the genetic material of the cell, a procedure that might lead to the cells becoming cancerous.