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Prion protein aids bone marrow

New study findings point to possible stem cell role for normal form of protein

Charles Choi
The normal form of prion protein (PrP) appears necessary for bone marrow stem cells to renew themselves, scientists reported online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These findings suggest a potential physiological function in stem cells for the normal form of the widely expressed protein."Prior to this work there was no hint that PrP had a function in stem cell biology," co-author Andrew Steele at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., told The Scientist. "We are now looking into PrP function in other adult stem cells, particularly neural stem cells."Prions are infamous for being associated with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as mad cow disease, but the function of PrP -- the normal, widespread and highly conserved form of prions -- remains a mystery. In preliminary studies, co-author Cheng Cheng Zhang discovered 40% of adult mouse bone marrow cells...

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