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SPERM STEM CELLS

ANCHOR LEAD: USING SPERM STEM CELLS, RESEARCHERS HOPE TO UNDERSTAND HOW STEM CELLS IN GENERAL ARE REGULATED, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS

Sperm are formed continuously throughout life for many male organisms, including people, by division of a specific type of stem cell.  Now Erika Matunis, a cell biologist at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, have found some surprising behavior related to sperm stem cells.

MATUNIS:  The behavior of a cell is really determined by its location more than anything else.  In previous studies we’ve found that even a cell that’s even begun embarking on that pathway of differentiation in starting to become sperm, if it finds itself in a different niche, it can actually undo that process and become a stem cell again.  And that was pretty surprising, because people used to consider that once a cell made a decision to go down a certain pathway that that was an irreversible choice.  :26

Since this pathway of reverting backwards is also harnessed in laboratory production of stem cells, having a clearer understanding of how it occurs may make the process easier.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


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