It is hoped
that a new method for studying cell development could lead to cures for
diseases such as cancer, UK scientists have reported.
A group of researchers
at the University of Bath combined traditional genetics techniques with
mathematical modelling to study gene networks involved in cell regulation.
Using this approach in a zebrafish model has allowed a better understanding of
the intricate details of the processes that dictate how healthy skin cells are
generated from multipotent stem cells.
All cells in
the body are derived from multipotent stem cells. The signals that control
when, where and which cells are finally produced are complex and currently
poorly understood. However, it is known that cells can start to function
incorrectly when certain signals and processes go wrong, which can lead to
diseases such as cancer. Understanding the complex pathways that occur in
producing and maintaining healthy cells is essential if scientists are to
understand what happens when things do go wrong.
research is an on-going collaboration between mathematical modelling and
biology. We are now looking in more detail at the core of the cell model we
have come up with, and are hoping to secure additional funding to extend the
research and further develop this combined-approach technique', said senior
author Dr Robert Kelsh from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the
University of Bath.
findings in this study strictly relate to melanocytes (specialised skin cells) and
thus only to skin cancer (melanoma), the authors believe the technique can
easily be modified to study other cells and their associated cancers.
researchers also hope that understanding the programming that occurs in
producing differentiated cells from multipotent stem cells will aid in the
development of stem cell-based therapies in the future.