The role of the PI3K pathway in embryonic stem cell proliferation and differentiation

Embryonic stem (ES) cells have the ability to differentiate into any cell type, such as skin, muscle or nerve cells. Differentiated ES cells potentially could be used to replace damaged tissues. However, undifferentiated EC cells form benign tumours following transplantation, thus ES cells must first properly differentiate into the desired cell type. Frann Antignano is investigating what causes ES cells to either self-renew or differentiate. The long version of a protein called SHIP plays a role in differentiation, while a shorter version called sSHIP is found in undifferentiated cells. Frann is examining the role of sSHIP in ES cell renewal by reducing the protein’s levels to see if that leads to increased self-renewal. Results from the research could lead to therapies for controlling ES cell differentiation to treat a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease.