Using computer-generated protein inserted into stem cells, scientists at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle recently found they could change the cells’ epigenetic (non-genetically sourced) memory, potentially leading to progress in the treatment of cancer and aging-related issues.
Describing their research results in the PNAS journal, the UW team was able to demonstrate that the synthetic protein could alter stem cells’ memory, the study’s senior author, Hannele Ruohola-Baker, who serves as associate director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM) at UW-Seattle, said in a posting on the UW Health Sciences' Newsbeat website.
ISCRM fellow Shiri Levy described the discovery as a game-changer, saying in the posting that the breakthrough “could change the fate of stem cells that we would like to use in regenerative medicine.”
All human body tissue derives from embryonic stem cells; the cells’ epigenetic memory controls how they develop, with proteins performing the bulk of the “work” inside the cells. It’s when cell division goes awry that cancer or other serious health concerns emerge; the scientists’ hope is that future computer-generated proteins can hinder chromosomal memory and be inserted into embryonic stem cells as needed.
“This process will help us understand what is going on in cancer and aging,” David Baker, who leads the UW Institute for Protein Design, said in the posting.