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Published: 2022-02-02

New finding on pluripotency for embryonic stem cell

Through a National Molecular Medicine Fellows Program (NMMP), WCMM and SciLifeLab researchers have discovered a novel mechanism important to control mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency.

ESC can give rise to every cell type in the body. This procedure is known as ‘pluripotency’. Like astronomers looking back to the Big Bang for fundamental insight about the Universe, ESCs provide information on early organismal development.

Understanding how ESC work to turn into trillions of cells with specialized functions is of high relevance in the field of regenerative medicine. In this study, led by Francesca Aguilo (WCMM Umeå), researchers identify a novel cellular mechanism that is important for the ability of these cells to maintain their state as stem cells.           

RNA is one of the three major biological macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life (along with DNA and proteins). Although it was originally thought to only function to transfer the genetic information from DNA to proteins, recent studies have shown that RNA plays crucial roles in the regulation of fundamental cellular processes. The researchers found that ZFP207, a protein that was thought to only exert its function through DNA-binding, binds to RNA in order to generate neurons in vitro.

In a collaborative effort between WCMM (Umeå, Francesca Aguilo) and SciLifeLab (Stockholm, Claudia Kutter) through the NMMP, and the groups of Angel Roman (University of Extremadura) and Dung Fang Lee (UTHealth Houston), researchers shed new light on the function of ZFP207 and on our understanding of how RNA maintains the stem cell state. This exciting study is now published in EMBO Reports.