University of Hawaii System newsletter

Gene Essential to Stem Cell Health Discovered

Posted on | July 30, 2010 | Comments Off on Gene Essential to Stem Cell Health Discovered

Richard Allsopp

Researchers at Mānoa’s School of Medicine discovered a gene that is essential to keeping stem cells healthy. The gene helps keep levels of telomerase constant. Telomerase is an enzyme that is critical to a stem cell’s lifespan, helping to prevent or slow deterioration in the cells. When telomerase is reduced in a stem cell, the stem cell ages faster.

“These findings have important implications for the development of potential therapies to treat both age-related diseases associated with exhaustion of stem cells, as well as various types of cancer that are dependent on cancer stem cells to grow,” says Allsopp.

To demonstrate the gene’s role in regulating levels of telomerase, Assistant Professor Richard Allsopp and his colleagues at JABSOM and Sierra Sciences, Nevada, reduced the amount of hypoxia inducible factor 1 to less than half of what is normally found in embryonic stem cells of mice. In the absence of the normal level of the gene, the scientists observed a corresponding reduction in telomerase and an increased rate of aging of stem cells.

Allsopp’s results are published in July’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Read the news release.