Sunday, August 20, 2006

 

How Human Cells Get Their Marching Orders

The human body may seem to change little over the years, but beneath this deceptive calm, cells are in constant flux as old ones are discarded and new ones appear. How do the new recruits know where they are meant to go?

Biologists at Stanford University say they have discovered a coordinate system in human cells that defines their position in the body. This seems to be the first time a cell-based positioning system has been reported for the adult body of any animal, though positioning systems that guide cells in embryogenesis are well known.

The coordinate system, if confirmed, may shed light on processes like wound healing and lend some hope to the prospect of regenerating human tissues from mature cells, as happens in animals like newts and salamanders, rather than from stem cells, the goal of cell therapy.
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The above New York Times article refers to the PLoS open access article "Anatomic Demarcation by Positional Variation in Fibroblast Gene Expression Programs"

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