News Feature | March 17, 2014

A Study of Protein Synthesis In Stem Cells Conducted For The First Time

By Liisa Vexler

Scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Texas, have conducted a breakthrough piece of research into protein synthesis in adult stem cells.   The research, previously not possible to conduct, has linked certain cancers with mutations affecting protein synthesis.

The process used an antibiotic called puromycin, in modified form, to aid in measuring the quantity of protein synthesized in the body.  Research revealed that protein is produced at a different rate per hour for different types of blood cells. It was also noted that much lower amounts of protein are synthesized by stem cells than other cells (blood-forming). The research, conducted on mice, concluded that when ribosome, a genetic mutation involved in making protein, was present the production of protein in stem cells diminished by 30%.  Conversely, in another experiment the tumor-suppressor gene P-ten was removed in an attempt to increase protein synthesis, resulting in an impairment of stem cell function. These findings conclude that protein synthesis for blood forming stem cells needs to be well regulated or else they will not function efficiently. A member of the team, Dr. Morrison, observed to his amazement that breeding Pten mutant mice with ribosomal mutant mice returned stem cell function to normal, leading to either a complete block or delay on the development of Leukaemia. Dr. Morrison is of the view that, “all of this happened because protein production in stem cells was returned to normal.  It was as if two wrongs made a right.”  The findings are thought to open the door to a number of similar tests for the many kinds of cells in the human body, making it possible to study protein synthesis for each. The research is thought to be important for understanding the differences in the rates and ways that protein in synthesized in cells and what this means for cellular survival.