such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
Cells are not static. They can transform themselves over time -- but
change can have dangerous implications. Benign cells, for example, can
suddenly change into cancerous ones.
That's one reason why scientists are trying to figure out why and how
cells can shed their old identity and take on a new one. If they can
figure out how this happens, researchers may better understand why many
different cells -- such as stem cells or cells that become cancerous --
transform. That, in turn, could someday allow scientists to control the
transformative process in a way that might help treat a wide range of
Jeffrey Laney, assistant professor of biology at Brown University,
has identified one way this change takes place by looking at Saccharomyces
cerevisae, a common yeast used to make beer and bread. Laney found
that a cellular "machine" removes a regulatory "lid" from genes in the
cell, so the cell can change its state. Details are published online in Nature
Cell Biology, with a print version to come.
"We have known that cells shed their old identity. What we didn't
know is how that mechanism occurred," said Laney, the paper's lead
author and a resaearcher in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell
Biology and Biochemistry.
The finding could shed new light on many different biological
transitions, Laney said, where cells change or evolve as part of their
To conduct the study, Laney and his lab tracked the cellular change
that takes place in baker's yeast. Specifically, they looked at the
organism as its "a" cells switched to "alpha" cells in order to
self-fertilize. (The process would be analogous to an egg becoming a
Laney's team found that a regulatory protein "sits" on genes inside
the cell, capping those genes -- turning them off -- and managing the
cell's identify as a result. Another regulatory molecule can pull that
protein off the genes, allowing the genes to be switched on and to
transform the cell from the "a" type into the "alpha" type.
Although the genes Laney's lab studied do not exist in humans, the
idea of cellular change by changing a gene expression state from on to
off, or off to on, is considered universal in all cells.
Understanding how this process happens normally will allow scientists
to gain insight into pathological situations when the cell
transformation process goes wrong, Laney said.
Alexander Wilcox, a postdoctoral research associate, is a co-author
of the paper.
Laney received funding for the study from the National Institutes of
Health and from a March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research
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