How stem cells organize cellular replacements

Stem cells communicate with each other to replace lost cells.


Every day, our systems create and destroy billions of cells, and our ability to regenerate depends on our ability to coordinate fate decisions within an actively cycling stem cell pool. These stem cell behaviors are directly related to local neighborhoods during epithelial regeneration. However, the complexity of capturing signaling dynamics across space and time in a live, uninjured setting means that how stem cells communicate with their neighbors at different distances still needs to be explored.

Scientists from yale university have investigated the cellular regulators of this balanced cycle of production and loss for years. It still needs to be determined whether stem cells located in different areas of our tissues can communicate across distances, telling each other where and how many cells need to be replaced.

A new study published in the Journal of Cell Biology by scientists from yale university used advanced imaging and machine learning to demonstrate that adult stem cells in skin tissue can coordinate calcium signals over remarkably long distances to prompt the restoration of lost cells.

The Yale team, led by first author Drs. Jessica Moore, Dhananjay Bhaskar, and Feng Gao discovered that localized groups of up to ten stem cells communicate via calcium signals, which dictate where and when lost cells are replaced.

As seen in the video above, these little groupings of stem cells are found in the epithelial tissue, a thin layer of skin (marked with magenta and calcium levels in green fluorescence).

This biological understanding was made possible by a computational method devised by the study team known as “Geometric Scattering Trajectory Homology,” which captures signaling patterns at several spatial and temporal resolutions.

This strategy is broadly applicable, and the researchers are currently using it in a follow-up article to understand extra complex signaling in various other biological systems.

This work was done in the labs of Drs. Valentina Greco and Smita Krishnaswamy of Yale School of Medicine (YSM), as well as Drs. Caroline Hendry and Andy Cox of YSM.

Journal Reference:

  1. Dhananjay Bhaskar, Jessica L. Moore, et al. The cell cycle controls long-range calcium signaling in the regenerating epidermis. Journal of Cell Biology. DOI: 10.1083/jcb.202302095
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