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Biology's 'Black Box'
20 June 2015

Biology's 'Black Box'

Scientists can take mature cells from your body and, with a little nudge, ‘re-program’ them to an immature state. These immature cells, called pluripotent stem cells, can develop into almost any body tissue so could be used to create exciting new treatments to repair damaged or diseased tissue. But scientists first need to understand how re-programming works. It’s been described as the ‘black box’ of biology: adult cells go in, and stem cells come out – but what happens in-between? It was thought that cohesin molecules played a key role. Now, researchers at the MRC’s Clinical Sciences Centre have shown that cohesin isn't needed to re-program adult cells. The team fused adult cells (small) and stem cells (large) together to initiate re-programming, and found that when they deleted cohesin (red), re-programming still took place. Lead researcher, Matthias Merkenschlager, says the work extends our understanding of how to best make stem cells.

Written by Deborah Oakley

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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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