Recent research from Harvard University and Hughes Medical Institute has elucidated a new type of cell language. One of the established main methods of intercellular communication is by cytokines. I liken this to the body’s cell phone system. Research is giving us a better understanding of the role off various cytokines. Some of these cytokines are the “good guys”. They help correct osteoarthritis and other such conditions. While other ones are the “bad guys”. They help cause and perpetuate osteoarthritis and other assorted conditions. Perhaps we should think of cytokines as the spoken word. More will be said about cytokines in another blog.
The new language proposed by the Harvard researchers is called NOTCH language. Notch language is almost like sign language. It is more physical than the spoken word. Notch language requires the “speaking” cell to physically pull on the “listening” cell. We now know that a physical force may be crucial to regulating cell division, replication, and a host of other functions. As was said in the article, research has now shown that physical force plays an important role in regulating a variety biological functions. Interestingly, we find mutations in the Notch coding gene in a variety of diseases such as Leukemia. It is now felt that altered mechanical signals in the microenvironment of the cells may lead to many diseases.
Notch signaling makes use of the cell membrane. Cytokines also make use of the cell membrane where a variety of receptors are located. Notch signaling involves a protein on the cell surface which uses mechanical forces to communicate into the cell. The researchers found that in Notch communication there was a point where there is something called a Delta molecule and a Notch molecule. When these two molecules bound together the Notch molecule still is not activated. An enzyme had to be available to allow the Notch molecule to do its work. The mystery was how did this enzyme get exposed. In their research the Harvard group used magnetic beads to tug on the delta molecule and found it activated the enzyme and allowed the Notch molecule to communicate.
This all seems well and good but is there are good clinical ideas that we can take away from this? I cannot say for sure if there is clinical significance to Notch language. But I think there is something very important here. We have performed electrical stimulation on joints to enhance stem cell function and survivability for some time now. There is very good evidence of some of the mechanisms of electrical stimulation. We know that it increases microcirculation in the area. Certainly this is helpful. It also increases stem cell motility to the area allowing the cells to hom to areas of injury. Electrical current also increases growth factors in the area. But perhaps a more fundamental function is what effect D/C micro electrical current has on Notch language. Can the electrical current pull on the Delta molecule to activate the Notch molecule and initiate Notch language. Electrical currents are taking increasing importance in the field of Regenerative Medicine and Cancer therapy. There is some intriguing research in utilizing electrical currents to treat cancer. For have known for years the electrical currents can stimulate articular cartilage formation. This come the work of Dr. Carl Brighton of Univ. of Penn. and Dr. Hugarford of John Hopkins Univ. We have had good success using electrical stimulation. Now I think I have a better understanding of what is going on. Perhaps with electrical stimulation we are helping the cells communicate with each other the spoken word (cytokines) and with sign language (Notch talk). I suspect there is probably some truth to this.
Thanks Dr. P
Categorised in: Stem Cell Updates