Stem cells have the ability to develop into may different cell types in the body during early life and development. Stem cells are unspecialized and have the ability to replicate and go through cell division. They can also be differentiated under certain conditions and become organ or tissue specific with specific functions. However, due to stem cells having a non-specific function, too many can lead to cancer and not enough can lead to damage in maintenance and repair in the body. Francesca Mariana and colleagues at the University of San Diego in California are performing research on a gene that maintains the essential balance of stem cells in the body. This gene is called the Prkci gene. The gene is the commander for all stem cells and deciphers whether the stem cells will self-renew and replicate or differentiate into special cell types.
Mariani and colleagues performed experiments on mice embryonic stem cells which lacked the Prkci genes. Without the gene, the stem cells favored the renewal and replication of the cells. When looking closer at the stem cells, they generated typical stem cells and activated neural, blood forming, and cardiac cells. The Prkci genes activate and deactivate whats called the "Notch signaling pathway". When Prkci genes are absent, the pathway signals stem cells to regenerate to make more unspecialized stem cells. When the Prkci genes are present, the pathway signals for the stem cells to become differentiated and specific.
I think this gene that is being researched and experimented with has positive and negative aspects. When Prkci is inhibited (not turned on) in people it can cause consequential overgrowth of cells which may lead to cancer. However, in people who are seriously injured or who have a disease, inhibiting the gene could be beneficial because stem cell production is boosted and promotes faster healing. Stem cells are tricky, yet essential to the human body and with more research, are found to be a rapid army of cells commanded by the Prkci gene.