Researchers identify core genetic networks driving human embryonic stem cell behavior
At the earliest stages of human embryonic development, a small collection of cells known as human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) orchestrates growth and differentiation, eventually giving rise to highly specialized human tissues. As pluripotent cells -- progenitors of every type of cell type in the body -- hESCs are of central interest to developmental and regenerative biologists. Many genes driving hESC functioning have previously been identified, but powerful tools that shed light on the interrelated activities of these genes have only emerged more recently. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School used genome-wide genetic screening to both over-express and inactivate ("knock out") tens of thousands of genes in hESCs. They uncovered key networks that simultaneously control pluripotency and readiness for cell death (apoptosis), helping to ensure optimal conditions for embryonic development. The study's findings, published in Genes and Development, offer new insights into cancer genetics and a novel approach for regenerative medicine research.
Source: Science Daily