In the News

Aug. 11, 2014 — Researchers at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern have identified a gene that contributes to the development of several childhood cancers, in a study conducted with mice designed to model the cancers.

If the findings prove to be applicable to humans, the research could lead to new strategies for targeting certain childhood cancers at a molecular level.

July 29, 2014 — The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has awarded nearly $5 million in research fellowships to 46 predoctoral students from 24 countries, including two Ph.D. student researchers at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern — Liem Nguyen and Xiaolei Shi.

Read the news release.

July 28, 2014 — Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) — the most common form of liver cancer — is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the world, yet there are few effective therapies and virtually no predictive markers based on a molecular understanding of the disease.

To increase current knowledge of HCC genetics, scientists at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern have generated efficient and physiologic liver cancer mouse models with in vivo use of a powerful genome-engineering tool known as Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases, or TALENs.

Read the study published in Cancer Research.

June 20, 2014 — The Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has identified a biomarker that enables researchers to accurately characterize the properties and function of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as they exist in the body.

MSCs are the focus of nearly 200 active clinical trials registered with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, targeting conditions such as bone fractures, cartilage injury, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. Read the news release.

May 22, 2014 — In a breakthrough discovery at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI), a research team led by Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D., has taken a significant step in cracking the code of an atypical metabolic pathway that allows certain cancerous tumors to thrive, providing a possible roadmap for defeating such cancers.

Following up on Dr. DeBerardinis’ landmark finding in 2011, this most recent discovery identifies the triggering mechanism that plays a key role in causing a series of energy-generating chemical reactions known as the Krebs cycle to run in reverse. Read the news release.

May 13, 2014 — Scientists at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have made a surprising discovery that significantly advances the current level of knowledge about stem cells in the brain.

For many years, researchers have assumed that neural stem cells (NSCs) could be identified based on their capacity to initiate clusters of cells in laboratory dishes, called neurospheres. However, scientists at CRI led by Sean Morrison, Ph.D., have identified markers showing that the neurosphere-initiating cells (NICs) are not stem cells at all. The NICs arise from NSCs but are very proliferative and short-lived. The research team identified a separate population of long-lived cells that are NSCs, which do not form neurospheres but give rise to larger numbers of brain cells in vivo.

“This new ability to purify brain stem cells directly from tissue will profoundly accelerate our understanding of brain stem cell function,” said Dr. Morrison, Director of CRI. “By providing a way to study NSCs and NICs in vivo and in more granular detail than before, this finding will alter the way we approach the development of neural stem cell therapies.”

Although many brain cells cannot be regenerated, NSCs persist throughout life in various regions of the brain, regenerating certain kinds of cells. Modulation of neural stem cell activity may influence learning, memory and other behaviors.

Read the research article published in eLife.

March 20, 2014 — Sean Morrison, Ph.D., Director of the Children’s Research Institute, discusses what stem cells do, how and why they change over a lifetime, and the ways those changes can be further examined in pursuit of potential treatments for certain diseases, as a guest on KERA’s radio program, Think. Listen to the interview.

March 9, 2014 — For the first time, researchers have shown that an essential biological process known as protein synthesis can be studied in adult stem cells, something scientists have long struggled to accomplish. The groundbreaking findings from the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern also demonstrate that the precise amount of protein produced by blood-forming stem cells is crucial to their function.

March 4, 2014 — Sean Morrison, Ph.D., Director of the Children’s Research Institute, recently delivered a President’s Lecture Series presentation, Understanding Cancer Through the Lens of Stem Cell Biology, on the campus of UT Southwestern. Afterward, he expanded on his remarks during a discussion on stem cells and aging. Read an excerpt of his comments.

Feb. 20, 2014 — Sean Morrison, Ph.D., Director of the Children’s Research Institute, discusses his internationally recognized research as part of the UT Southwestern President’s Lecture Series. By applying the principles of stem cell biology to understand cancer growth and progression, Dr. Morrison and the scientists in his laboratory have been able to gain important insights into the cells that are responsible for tumor growth, as well as the molecular mechanisms they use to drive growth and metastasis. Watch Dr. Morrison’s presentation.