New York: How do stem cells decide whether to become liver cells or pancreatic cells during development?
A cell’s fate is determined by the nearby presence of ‘prostaglandin E2’ – a messenger molecule best known for its role in inflammation and pain.
Stem cell scientists Wolfram Goessling and Trista Northat the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) identified a gradient of prostaglandin E2 in the region of zebrafish embryos where stem cells differentiate into the internal organs.
The finding could potentially make liver and pancreas cells easier to generate both in the lab and for future cell therapies.
“Cells that see more prostaglandin become liver and the cells that see less prostaglandin become pancreas,” said Goessling, assistant professor of medicine.
This is the first time that prostaglandin is being reported as a factor that can lead this ‘fate switch’ and essentially instruct what kind of identity a cell is going to be, the researchers added.
Other experiments showed that prostaglandin E2 could also enhance liver growth and regeneration of liver cells.
“Prostaglandin might be a master regulator of cell growth in different organs,” Goessling said.
It’s used in cord blood, as we have shown, it works in the liver, and who knows what other organs might be affected by it, revealed the findings published in the journal Developmental Cell.