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DNA sequencing


Research into stem cells
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
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[Q] So, now I don't know if the question was asked because there was a lot of talk about stem cells and regarding this, what can be seen today can... the whole controversy that there is... because some countries allow it, some countries... I'm not talking about it from a political viewpoint, I'm just saying that some decisions were taken by scientists and opinions differ, but it can be a form of obscurantism to forbid types of research on stem cells.

You see, it is important to distinguish. There are embryonal stem cells and adult stem cells. These ones are not embryonal stem cells, they are adult stem cells because each organ has its own stem cells, therefore in this case this problem, luckily, does not exist. The problem is not this; the problem, for example, which are the stem cells of the mammary glands? And now we refer again to these results that I spoke about earlier, obtained in rats, with monoclonal antibodies... that there is an entire category of cells and possibly one of these represents the stem cells, but they need to be isolated, you see, and we then need to see how they behave. It is not easy to work with adult stem cells, because, you see, stem cells usually exist... what we call a niche. This niche is formed by other cells and the influence of these other cells is to keep the stem cells there. Then every so often, it happens that there is an independent signal, whereby some stem cells multiply and leave the niche and when they leave the niche, they are influenced by all the other cells and start to differentiate themselves. So you see, to use the cell you need to identify the niche, which can be much smaller. I don't know, for example, in the skin, the niches are parts of hair, what surrounds it, hair, you see, close to the hair root. And the niche is there, the stem cells are there, therefore in the mammary gland I don't think we have any idea of where we are, you understand, so... However, we will look at these old results again to see if they give us any useful ideas.

[Q] And this is the current situation?

Yes, current, today's situation.

[Q] Beh, adesso io non so se la domanda vada fatta. Perché si parla tanto di staminali appunto, ecco e su questo, quello che si è visto adesso può... tutta la polemica che c'è... perché certi paesi che lo consentono, certi paesi no... Io non ne parlo dal punto di vista politico, dico soltanto che certe decisioni andrebbero prese dagli scienziati e i pareri sono difformi. Ma, può essere una forma di oscurantismo questa di vietare certe ricerche sulle staminali.

Ma vedi, bisogna distinguere. Ci sono cellule staminali embrionali e cellule staminali adulte. Queste non sono cellule staminali embrionali, sono cellule staminali adulte, perché ciascun organo ha le proprie cellule staminali, perciò lì questo problema, per fortuna, non esiste. Il problema non è quello; il problema, per esempio, quali sono le cellule staminali della ghiandola mammaria? E adesso noi ci rifaremo forse a questi risultati di cui ho parlato prima, ottenuti nei ratti, con gli anticorpi monoclonali... che c'è tutta una categoria di cellule e possibilmente una di questa rappresenta le cellule staminali, ma però bisogna isolarle, capisci, e bisogna poi vedere come si comportano. Non è facile lavorare con cellule staminali adulte, perché vedi, le cellule staminali normalmente esistono... quello noi chiamiamo una nicchia. Questa nicchia è formata da altre cellule e l'influenza di queste altre cellule è quello che mantiene le cellule staminali lì. Poi, ogni tanto, capita che c'è un segnale indipendente, per cui qualche cellula staminale si moltiplica ed esce fuori dalla nicchia e quando esce fuori dalla nicchia, riceve l'influenza di tutte le altre cellule e comincia a differenziarsi. Dunque percio' vedi, per usare la cellula, bisogna identificare la nicchia, che può essere molto piccola. Non so, ad esempio, nella pelle le nicchie sono parte dei peli, di quello che li circonda, il pelo, capisci, vicino al bulbo del pelo. E lì la nicchia è lì, le cellule staminali sono lì, perciò nella ghiandola mammaria non credo che abbiamo nessuna idea di dove siano, capisci, perciò. Comunque, guarderemo di nuovo questi vecchi risultati per vedere se ci danno qualche suggerimento utile.

[Q] E questa è la situazione attuale?

Attuale, di oggi.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Tags: cancer, stem cells, embryonal stem cells, skin

Duration: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008