Lost stem cells are replaced by non-stem cells: Study

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Washington, Apr 18 : A new study has found that when a certain kind of stem cell is killed off experimentally, another group of non-stem cells can come out of retirement to replace them.

Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered the unexpected phenomenon in the organs that produce sperm in fruit flies.

The discovery sheds light on the tiny "environments" that stem cells occupy in animal bodies and may help explain how stem cells in tumors replenish themselves, the researchers said.

Damage of the kind duplicated in the laboratory occurs naturally after exposure to radiation and perhaps also after ingestion of toxic chemicals such as those used in chemotherapy.

The research group, led by Erika Matunis, Ph.D., a professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has been using the fruit fly as a model living system in which to study stem cells in their natural state.

Most stem cell research is done on cells grown in the laboratory, but in real life, stem cells reside in tissues, where they are sequestered in tiny spaces known as niches.

Adult stem cells keep dividing throughout life to make various kinds of cells, like new blood cells and germ cells.

Matunis' group studies such niches in fruit fly testes, the sperm-producing organs shaped like a coiled tube whose end houses a niche. In the niche are three kinds of cells: germ line stem cells, which divide to produce sperm; somatic cyst stem cells, which make a kind of cell that helps the sperm-producing cells out; and hub cells, which make signals that keep the other two kinds of cells going.

The hub cells are not stem cells; they have settled on their final form, incapable of dividing further or changing their function or so everyone thought.

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Lost stem cells are replaced by non-stem cells: Study

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