USC researchers apply brainpower to understanding neural stem cell differentiation

By Cristy Lytal

How do humans and other mammals get so brainy? USC researcher Wange Lu, PhD, and his colleagues shed new light on this question in a paper published in Cell Reports on Oct. 24.

The researchers donned their thinking caps to explain how neural stem and progenitor cells differentiate into neurons and related cells called glia. Neurons transmit information through electrical and chemical signals; glia surround, support and protect neurons in the brain and throughout the nervous system. Glia do everything from holding neurons in place to supplying them with nutrients and oxygen, to protecting them from pathogens.

By studying early mouse embryo neural stem cells in a petri dish, Lu and his colleagues discovered that a protein called SMEK1 promotes the differentiation of neural stem and progenitor cells. At the same time, SMEK1 keeps these cells in check by suppressing their uncontrolled proliferation. Read More »

December 23rd, 2013|Announcements|

Ostrow study illustrates how growth factor defect causes tongue malformation

By Beth Newcomb

New findings about how cell signaling directs tongue development may have big clinical applications for healing tongue defects, according to an Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Yang Chai, DDS, PhD, principal investigator of “Non-canonical transforming growth factor beta (TGFb) signaling in cranial neural crest cells causes tongue muscle developmental defects” and director of the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Ostrow School of Dentistry, said the tongue is a unique, highly mobile muscular organ that many view as a “fifth limb.” When the tongue develops improperly or is damaged by injury or disease, it cannot regenerate on its own.

“The current standard of care is to repair the tongue surgically using a skin flap, but it doesn’t have the muscle components to move the tongue and lacks the ability to taste food,” explained Chai. “We want to understand how the tongue is formed and how we can use that knowledge to regenerate the tongue.” Read More »

December 23rd, 2013|Announcements|

USC researcher reveals how to better master stem cells’ fate

By Cristy Lytal

USC scientist Qi-Long Ying, PhD, MSc, and a team of researchers have long been searching for biotech’s version of the fountain of youth — ways to encourage embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) to endlessly self-renew, or divide to produce more stem cells.

In a pair of studies published in Nature Communications in September and in The EMBO Journal in August, Ying and his team revealed some of the ways that ESCs and EpiSCs retain their pluripotency, or ability to differentiate into virtually any kind of cell. Read More »

October 25th, 2013|Announcements|

USC stem cell researcher receives a $1 million pledge for “eureka moments”

By Cristy Lytal

Chinese businessman Yong Chen has pledged $1 million to USC stem cell researcher Qi-Long Ying to support his future “eureka moments.”

“When I talked to Mr. Chen, I told him that groundbreaking discoveries often come from unexpected directions,” said Ying, PhD, associate professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. “You suddenly have a very creative and unusual idea, and you test it. And it works.” Read More »

August 30th, 2013|Announcements|

Forum kicks off USC’s summer high school programs in stem cell research

By Cristy Lytal

More than 20 local students are enjoying a summer of hands-on experience in stem research laboratories, through the USC Early Investigator High School (EiHS) and the USC CIRM Science, Technology and Research (STAR) programs.

Darren Harris, a student at Lifeline Education Charter School, explained what the opportunity means to him at the USC Stem Cell Public Policy Education Forum, held in the Aresty Auditorium on July 12. Read More »

July 25th, 2013|Announcements|