One of the topics of debate in recent years focuses on the possible plasticity of adult stem cells , that is, on their ability to change function. In this case, a team of researchers from the University of Seville and the Seville Institute of Biomedicine has focused on analyzing the role of stem cells from the adult carotid body. This nervous tissue structure is found at the bifurcation of the carotid arteries and is responsible for controlling the oxygen content of the blood , in addition to regulating respiration.
A few years ago, the same team of scientists demonstrated that, under conditions of hypoxia – lack of oxygen – in the blood, the stem cells of the adult carotid body are activated and become neurons that stimulate the respiratory center to compensate for the lack of oxygen and return to its normal state.
A new functionality
Now, the new work published in the journal Cell Reports describes another functionality: stem cells from the adult carotid body, in addition to neurons, have the ability to transform into blood vessels . “We describe that stem cells of the adult carotid body derived from the neural crest are capable of undergoing endothelial differentiation in addition to their role already described in neurogenesis , contributing to both neurogenic and angiogenic processes that take place in the organ during acclimatization to hypoxia. “, explains Ricardo Pardal, principal investigator of the project.
“Furthermore, the conversion into vascular cells is dependent on the hypoxia-inducible factor. Our data highlight a remarkable physiological plasticity in an adult population of tissue-specific stem cells, and could have an impact on the use of these cells for cell therapy, ” he adds. .
The researchers emphasize the repercussions that this finding may have in the face of various diseases such as pediatric tumors and Parkinson’s . “We believe that the ability of neural stem cells to produce blood vessels could directly affect the growth of certain types of tumors in children,” explained Pardal.