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McMaster Discovery Provides New Insights Into Pluripotent Stem Cell Biology

November 05, 2017

A discovery at McMaster University's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute suggests that a signaling molecule critical for proper embryonic development of a multicellular organism also plays a role in maintaining the fundamental properties of pluripotent stem cells, the unique cells that can become any cell type of the body.

Researchers led by principal investigator Brad Doble, have found that a protein called beta-catenin controls the ability of mouse embryonic stem cells to differentiate into various new types of specialized cells such as neurons.

The newly discovered properties of beta-catenin may also have important implications for cancer, because it is frequently found mutated in several types of human cancer. The study has been published this month in Cell Stem Cell and is featured on the cover of the journal.

"The way that beta-catenin controls embryonic stem cell properties has been unclear," said Doble, an assistant professor in McMaster's Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Science. "We have identified a unique mechanism through which beta-catenin exerts its effects, which may be important not only in stem cells, but also in cancer."

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Canada Research Chair program, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and the Ontario Research Foundation.

McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 140,000 alumni in 128 countries.

McMaster University