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Researchers discover neural stem cells can become blood vessels



Mother cells from the adult carotid body can transform into blood vessels as well as neurons, according to a new discovery by scientists at the University of Seville. The finding could have important repercussions on the advance in treatment of diseases as different as pediatric tumors and Parkinson's.

"We believe that the ability to produce blood vessels from neural stems cells could directly affect the growth of certain types of tumors on the infant population," said the project's main researcher, Ricardo Pardal, of the Neural Mother Cell Physiopathology Research Group at the University of Seville and the Seville Institute of Biomedicine (IBiS). The work was mainly carried out by post-doctoral researcher Valentina Annese, as a member of the group.

The carotid body is a small structure of nerve tissue situated at the fork of the carotid artery. Its function is to act as a chemoreceptor in the blood. It monitors oxygen pressure in the blood and plays a role in the regulation of breathing.

The plasticity of adult mother cells, or the somatic mother cells, to cross boundaries and to differ in unrelated cell types has been a subject of debate in the last decade. The stem cells that come from the neural crest (NCSCs) show notable plasticity during their development, but it is not known if adult NCSCs maintain this plasticity.

In this sense, "We describe that the adult stem cells from the carotid body taken from the neural crest (CBSCs) are capable of experiencing endothelial differentiation, as well as their already described role in neurogenesis, contributing to both neurogenic and angiogenic processes that take place in the organ during acclimation to hypoxia, Dr. Pardal said. “In addition, the conversion of CBSCs into blood vessels is dependent on the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) and is sensitive to vascular cytokines released in hypoxia, such as erythropoietin. Our data highlights a notable physiological plasticity in an adult population of stem cells specifically from tissue, and they could have an impact on the use of those cells for cellular therapy," he added.

The study appears in Cell Reports.

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