September 2, 2011
Modeling Melanocyte Differentiation In Zebrafish
Researchers at the University of Bath have combined genetic data with mathematical modelling to provide insights into cells and how they differentiate. The findings, to be published in open-access journal PLoS Genetics on September 1st, demonstrate the utility of a systems biology approach and could have implications for understanding and treating diseases, including cancers, caused when cells start to function incorrectly.
All cells derive from multipotent precursor cells (stem cells). The mechanisms by which stably differentiated cell-types are generated from stem cells are important to the understanding of normal development. Little is known, however, about how the switch of a stem cell to a stably differentiated state is regulated. It is likely that destabilisation of such transitions in human skin cells (melanocytes) are factors in initiating melanoma.
Through understanding exactly what changes take place in melanocyte development in healthy tissue and during the onset of diseases such as melanoma, scientists can work towards developing methods for potentially reversing or preventing these changes, and halting the progression of the disease.
Dr Kelsh said: "This research is an on-going collaboration between mathematical modellers and biologists. We are now looking in more detail at the core of the cell model we have come up with, and are hoping to extend the research and further develop this combined-approach technique."
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