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Balancing Act
29 December 2015

Balancing Act

Stem cells are important for the maintenance and repair of tissue – but if too many are produced, it can lead to cancer. Scientists have discovered that a gene, called Prkci, controls this critical balance by influencing whether stem cells duplicate themselves or start to change into other types of cell such as blood or nerve. In laboratory experiments, embryonic stem cells of mice that were genetically altered to lack Prkci favoured self-renewal rather than change, or differentiation. Pictured are mouse embryonic stem cells that have differentiated (red), and neural stem cells (green) that are less inclined to change because they lack Prkci. This type of research could help scientists to develop drugs that control stem cell production and help repair injuries or fight certain diseases, while avoiding a significantly increased risk of cancer.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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