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A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 4-Sep-2014 12:00 PM EDT

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New Tool Aids Stem Cell Engineering for Medical Research

A Mayo Clinic researcher and his collaborators have developed an online analytic tool that will speed up and enhance the process of re-engineering cells for biomedical investigation. CellNet is a free-use Internet platform that uses network biology methods to aid stem cell engineering. Details of CellNet and its application to stem cell engineering are described in two back-to-back papers in the journal Cell.

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Biologists Reprogram Skin Cells to Mimic Rare Disease

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Stem cell biologists have reprogrammed skin cells from patients with a rare genetic disorder, called familial dysautonomia, into neural crest cells that mimic and display many biological features of the disease. The research expedites the creation of these precursor cells from any patient with a neural crest-related disorder, allowing scientists to study each patient’s disorder at the cellular level.

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Stem Cells Reveal How Illness-Linked Genetic Variation Affects Neurons

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A genetic variation linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression wreaks havoc on connections among neurons in the developing brain, a team of researchers reports. The study, led by Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D., and Hongjun Song, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and described online Aug. 17 in the journal Nature, used stem cells generated from people with and without mental illness to observe the effects of a rare and pernicious genetic variation on young brain cells. The results add to evidence that several major mental illnesses have common roots in faulty “wiring” during early brain development.

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New Blood: Tracing the Beginnings of Hematopoietic Stem Cells

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In a paper published online this week in Nature, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine elaborate upon a crucial signaling pathway and the role of key proteins, which may help clear the way to generate HSCs from human pluripotent precursors, similar to advances with other kinds of tissue stem cells.

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Beyond DNA: Epigenetics Plays Large Role in Blood Formation

Weizmann Institute scientists developed a new technique for epigenetic profiling, enabling them to identify the exact DNA sequences, as well as various regulatory proteins, involved in regulating the process of blood stem cell fate. In a first, they also charted histone dynamics during blood development. The work holds promise for future development of diagnostic tools, regenerative medicine, and more.

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How Breast Cancer Usurps the Powers of Mammary Stem Cells

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During pregnancy, certain hormones trigger specialized mammary stem cells to create milk-producing cells essential to lactation. Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have found that mammary stem cells associated with the pregnant mammary gland are related to stem cells found in breast cancer.

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Dramatic Growth of Grafted Stem Cells in Rat Spinal Cord Injuries

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Building upon previous research, scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veteran’s Affairs San Diego Healthcare System report that neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and grafted into rats after a spinal cord injury produced cells with tens of thousands of axons extending virtually the entire length of the animals’ central nervous system.

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Stowers Researchers Reveal Molecular Competition Drives Adult Stem Cells to Specialize

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Adult organisms ranging from fruit flies to humans harbor adult stem cells, some of which renew themselves through cell division while others differentiate into the specialized cells needed to replace worn-out or damaged organs and tissues. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that control the balance between self-renewal and differentiation in adult stem cells is an important foundation for developing therapies to regenerate diseased, injured or aged tissue.

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