Predicting the Fate of Personalized Cells Next Step Towards New Therapies, Penn Study Suggests

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Media Contact:Karen Kreeger | Karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-5658May 19, 2011

Discovering the step-by-step details of the path embryonic cells take to develop into their final tissue type is the clinical goal of many stem cell biologists.

To that end, Kenneth S. Zaret, PhD, of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and associate director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Cheng-Ran Xu, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Zaret laboratory, looked at immature cells called progenitors and found a way to potentially predict their fate. They base this on how the protein spools around which DNA winds -- called histones -- are marked by other proteins. This study appeared this week in Science.

In the past, researchers grew progenitor cells and waited to see what they differentiated into. Now, they aim to use this marker system, outside of a cell's DNA and genes, to predict the cell’s eventual fate. This extra-DNA system of gene expression control is called epigenetics.

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