Biotech Updates

Moss Protein Offers Clues for Improving Stem Cell Techniques

October 2, 2009

Mosses are often overlooked and underrated. Sometimes they are used as fuel, or as horticultural soil additives. But that's about it. Now researchers from the Tel Aviv University in Israel and Freiburg University in Germany said that the lowly moss may provide a new "compass" for stem cell research, telling scientists how better to program stem cells for medical purposes.

The researchers, led by Nir Ohad and Ralf Reski, have discovered a new use for the Polycomb group proteins (PcG) found in moss.

The researchers suggested that the basic function of the PcG mechanism in moss, common to its function in plants and humans, is in regulating cell differentiation, describing the point at which a stem cell "decides" to become a leaf or flower, for example.

Nir Ohad and colleagues pointed out that this research has "direct implications for the study of plant biology, providing basic information on how the plant body and reproduction are regulated. It gives science a tool to control tissue specification, timing of reproduction and the development of traits in seeds that serve as the source for human and animal feed."

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