Skip to Main Content

In a study in mice, adult stem cells reveal their versatility

Stem cells derived from the bone marrow of adult mice, a Yale researcher and her colleagues have found, can create not only new bone marrow cells, but liver, lung, gastrointestinal and skin cells. “Thus far, this is the closest adult-derived stem cell to the embryonic stem cell, which can transform into any cell type in the body,” said Diane Krause, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology. Krause was lead author of the study, which was carried out by scientists from three institutions. Their study was published in the journal Cell in May.

The research built on the same group’s earlier experiments in mouse models that showed that bone marrow cells could generate new liver cells, including hepatocytes and cholangiocytes (Findings, Fall 2000 | Winter 2001). Krause and her colleagues then showed that this regeneration also occurs in humans. “However, we didn’t know if the bone marrow cell that could make liver was the same cell that could make blood,” Krause said. “We wanted to know what cell it was.”

In their most recent experiment, Krause and her collaborators irradiated female mice, then transplanted a single male-derived cell. Using the Y chromosome as a marker, they identified the progeny of that cell. To their surprise, they found the male chromosome not only in the blood and bone marrow, as expected, but also in 15 different cell types. “The adult bone marrow cell, we have found,” said Krause, “has remarkable plasticity.”

The other principal investigator on the project was Neil Theise, M.D., associate professor at New York University School of Medicine. Saul Sharkis, Ph.D., of the Oncology Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, was the senior author. Other collaborators were from the Department of Genetics at Yale and the Department of Pathology at the NYU School of Medicine.