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A IAPP on the Role of NCAM in Stem Cell Differentiation

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Peptides in stem cell research

European researchers used a stem cell-based approach to identify compounds that could promote cell differentiation. Such compounds could be utilised as regenerative treatments to induce tissue repair.

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Stem cells such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) represent powerful and cost-effective tools for drug discovery and toxicity screening. Their capacity to differentiate down a particular cell lineage ensures that they could be used to study disease mechanisms and pathways. The discovery of molecular regulators implicated in nervous system or heart regeneration might help scientists develop new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of various diseases. With this in mind, the EU-funded STEMCAM (A IAPP on the Role of NCAM in Stem Cell Differentiation) project studied the role of the neuronal cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) and related growth factors in the maintenance, survival and differentiation of iPSCs. Researchers focused particularly on the differentiation of iPSCs towards the neural and myocardial lineage in comparison with ESCs. To this aim, the project fostered a long-term collaboration between industry and academia by sufficiently exploiting the expertise and complementarities between them in stem cell research and applications. Partners followed a multi-disciplinary approach with techniques ranging from imaging and molecular biology to electrophysiology and peptide chemistry. They took advantage of the innovative NCAM and growth factor mimetic peptides and also screened a number of compounds that promoted neuroectodermal or mesodermal differentiation. They identified five peptides affecting neuronal differentiation and two peptides with marked effects on cardiomyogenesis. Undoubtedly, there is a big debate regarding the safety of iPSC and ESC cell-based therapies in the cure of different diseases that affect the nervous system or the heart. In addition, there are ethical considerations on the derivation and utilisation of ESCs for clinical interventions. However, they constitute invaluable research tools for developing therapeutic strategies against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.


Peptides, stem cell, iPSC, ESC, NCAM, nervous system, heart, neurodegenerative diseases

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