At the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI), two groups of scientists have made complementary discoveries that break new ground on efforts to turn back the body's clock on cellular activity.
This has paved the way for a better understanding of stem cells, tissue growth, and regeneration. A team led by Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of CRI and Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has identified an RNA-binding protein called IMP1 that promotes stem cell self-renewal during fetal development. Self-renewal is the process by which stem cells divide to make more stem cells, which is important for the growth of tissues during fetal development and the regeneration of tissues throughout adult life.
At the same time, researchers including Dr. Hao Zhu, who also directs a lab at CRI and is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, have shown that another RNA-binding protein, Lin28a, also promotes tissue repair by reactivating a metabolic state reminiscent of the juvenile developmental stage.
Dr. Zhu's research, published in Cell
, showed that reactivation of Lin28a — a gene that is normally turned on in fetal but not adult tissues — substantially improved hair regrowth and accelerated tissue repair after ear and digit injuries.