A stem cells' metabolome

May 27, 2010
The Column

Volume 6, Issue 9

By using a metabolomic approach, a group of researchers have described some key differences between stem cells and mature cells as well as metabolites associated with the transition between the two.

As stem cells mature they change to form all the different cells that our bodies use. Control of this process could give doctors the tools to meet the needs of many patients with terrible conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal injuries. By using a metabolomic approach, a group of researchers have described some key differences between stem cells and mature cells as well as metabolites associated with the transition between the two.

Published in the on-line edition of Nature Chemical Biology,1 the study used LC–MS to analyse the stem cells’ metabolome and found 60 previously unidentified metabolites associated with the cell progression. “The study reveals an astounding cellular strategy,” commented Oscar Yanes, one of the researchers. “The capacity of embryonic stem cells to generate a whole spectrum of cell types characteristic of different tissues is mirrored at the metabolic level.”

The team suggests that the stem cells’ metabolome allows them to react to in vivo oxidative processes such as inflammation. Supporting this theory, the researchers found that by chemically blocking the oxidative processes, they were able to prevent stem cells’ normal progress into mature heart and nerve cells. Conversely, when specific oxidized metabolites were introduced downstream into the culture, stem cell differentiation was promoted.

1O. Yanes, Nature Chemical Biology, on-line 2 May 2010.

This story originally appeared in The Column. Click here to view that issue.