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STEM CELL MAINTENANCE

HOW STEM CELLS ARE MAINTAINED IS A MATTER OF PACKAGING, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS

Stem cells are found in almost all tissues in the body, where they respond to changes in their environment by producing more of needed types of cells.  Erika Matunis and colleagues at Johns Hopkins have found that DNA packaging is critical to this process.

MATUNIS: When the DNA is packaged in one way its inaccessible and when its packaged another way its accessible to factors that commonly activate genes in that region of the genome so you can think of it as being packed up because the cell is not using that region of the DNA or open and unpacked.   :17

Something called a NURF complex helps the cell to package and unpack DNA.

MATUNIS: It turns out that cells need to be able to use this ‘Nurf’ complex in order to be able to move around nucleosomes in their stem cells, and when they can’t respond appropriately to the signals in their environment anymore.   :14

Matunis says NURF is likely just one of a number of enzymes involved in this process.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.


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