School of Medicine

Researchers find new stem cell self-renewal mechanism

UC Irvine School of Medicine researchers have discovered a new mechanism for stem cells to maintain their identity.

Study leader Yongsheng Shi, an assistant professor of microbiology & molecular genetics, says that it is well-known that stem cells need to keep certain genes on while shutting off others in order for them to self-renew, and that his group has identified a factor that is essential for embryonic stem cell self-renewal.

However, this factor, called Fip1, does not function as an on-off gene switch, but instead regulates how the messenger RNAs of critical genes are processed.

In addition to its essential role in embryonic stem cells, Fip1 is also required for reprogramming of differentiated cells to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Manipulation of Fip1 could potentially be used to enhance the efficiency of iPSC production, a critical and rate-limiting step in using iPSC for therapeutics. The study is published in the EMBO Journal.