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Crop Biotech Update

Biologists Discover How Plants Reconstitute Stem Cells

May 25, 2016

Stem cells are thought to have the intrinsic ability to generate or replace specialized cells. However, a team of biologists at NYU showed that regenerating plants can naturally-reestablish their stem cells from more mature cells by replaying embryogenesis.

The researchers studied plant root regeneration using lineage tracing to determine the origin of cells, live imaging to observe the reassembly of tissues, and single cell RNA sequencing to analyze cells in transition during regeneration.

Analysis revealed that, after severe damage removed all stem cells of the root, new stem cells were recruited from other cell types that were already specialized. To do this, the plant replayed the steps of embryogenesis, first creating specialized tissues that generated a new set of stem cells. This showed that the important ingredient for long-term growth was the surrounding tissues that together created stem cell behavior.

Although the team can't assume that plant genes can help human regeneration, the principles involved in plant stem cell reconstitution could serve as a general model for human stem cell research.

For more information, read the article in Cell.