Not much is known about stem cell metabolism, but a new study from the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern (CRI) has found that stem cells take up unusually high levels of vitamin C, which then regulates their function and suppresses the development of leukemia. “We have known for a while that people with lower levels of ascorbate (vitamin C) are at increased cancer risk, but we haven’t fully understood why. Our research provides part of the explanation, at least for the blood-forming system,” said Dr. Sean Morrison, the Director of the CRI. The metabolism of stem cells has historically been difficult to study because a large number of cells are required for metabolic analysis, while stem cells in each tissue of the body are rare. Techniques developed during the study, which was published online on August 21, 2017 in Nature, have allowed researchers to routinely measure metabolite levels in rare cell populations such as stem cells. The techniques led researchers to discover that every type of blood-forming cell in the bone marrow had distinct metabolic signatures – taking up and using nutrients in their own individual way. One of the main metabolic features of stem cells is that they soak up unusually high levels of ascorbate.
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