Redito, Maria Analyn A.


Niche Control Of Stem Cell Function
The Stowers Institute’s Xie Lab has published findings that begin to characterize the poorly understood interaction among stem cells within their cellular microenvironment, called a niche. The Xie Lab demonstrated that differentiation-defective Drosophila ovarian germline stem cells (GSCs), behaving like human cancer stem cells, can out-compete normal stem cells for a position in the niche. They do so by invading the niche space of neighboring GSCs and gradually pushing them out of the niche by increasing the cellular response to the adhesion molecule E-cadherin. Furthermore, the team found that mutant GSC competition requires both E-cadherin and normal GSC division, and that different levels of E-cadherin expression can stimulate GSC competition. “We believe that this stem cell competition mechanism may explain why differentiated stem cells are displaced from the niche,” said Zhigang Jin, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate and co-equal first author on the paper. “We observed that stem cell competition serves as a quality control mechanism to ensure that only undifferentiated stem cells remain in the niche.” “These findings offer important insights into the tight control of stem cell quality by the niche and how cancer stem cells might invade new niches for self-proliferation,” said Ting Xie, Ph.D., Associate Investigator and senior author on the paper. “Additionally, these findings point to a promising strategy for delivering stem cells to targeted niches for their long-term maintenance and generation of functional cells through augmented stem cell competition.”

Organic Farming: Early-Flowering, Winter-Hardy Hairy Vetch Released For Northern United States
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist and breeder Thomas Devine and collaborators have released "Purple Bounty," the first winter-hardy, early-flowering vetch for the northern United States. Until now, hairy vetch--a cover crop and weed-suppressing mulch favored particularly by organic farmers had limited use north of Maryland because it copes poorly with northern winters. But Purple Bounty has survived winters as far north as upstate New York. Devine, with the ARS Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., spent nine years breeding this variety. He used traditional breeding methods so that the variety would be acceptable to organic farmers. He started with several hairy vetch types from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., and from the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System, then maintained in Georgia. There he found early-flowering types. From these, Devine selected for improved winter hardiness while maintaining early flowering. He harvested seed from plants that survived winters at Beltsville and at the University of Maryland farm at Keedysville in northern Maryland. Purple Bounty emerged from nine cycles of selection, with the right blend of winterhardiness and early flowering. It flowers two weeks earlier than a commonly used variety. This allows farmers to plant their main crop earlier in spring and use corn and tomato varieties that require a longer growing season. Limited quantities of seed should be available for planting in 2008, with commercial quantities available in 2009.

The use of living organisms for the recovery/ cleaning up of a contaminated medium (soil, sediment, air, water). The process of bioremediation might involve introduction of new organisms to a site, or adjustment of environmental conditions to enhance degradation rates of indigenous fauna. Bioremediation can be applied to recover brownfields for development and for preparing contaminated industrial effluents prior to discharge into waterways. Bioremediation technologies are also applied to contaminated wastewater, ground or surface waters, soils, sediments and air where there has been either accidental or intentional release of pollutants or chemicals that pose a risk to human, animal or ecosystem health. Different approaches to bioremediation take advantage of the metabolic processes of different organisms for degradation, or sequestering and concentration, of different contaminants. For example, soil bioremediation might be performed under either aerobic or anaerobic conditions, and involve optimization of the metabolic pathways of bacteria or fungi for degradation of hydrocarbons, aromatic compounds or chlorinated pesticides. Phytoremediation is a bioremediation process using plants and is often proposed for bioaccumulation of metals. Bioremediation using genetically engineered microorganisms (GEMs), carrying recombinant proteins, is still relatively uncommon due to regulatory constraints related to their release and control. Other methods of enzyme optimization that do not include gene cloning technqiues, might be applied to indigenous microorganisms in order to enhance their pre-existing traits.