What Is Laminin?
To better understand the interactions between laminin and stem cell, it is essential to understand what laminin is. Laminin is a protein that is found in the body’s extracellular matrix. Laminin is a highly sticky protein that is able to bind both to itself and to other materials. This means that laminin can give structure to internal body organs and other systems.
In recent years, laminin has prompted a surge of interest both inside the scientific community and from outsiders. Scientists have been interested in exploring laminin in greater detail, so that they can more fully understand the functions that this protein carries out, in addition to binding. Outside the scientific community, laminin has spurred interest among some members of the religious community who claim that laminin has a unique cross-like shape. These religious leaders claim that laminin shows the presence of God in everyone’s life. This view of laminin clearly is not echoed by most of the scientists.
However, this still raises the question about how laminin and stem cells interact.
The Interaction and What Does It Mean
There are multiple different ways in which laminins and stem cells may interact, both positively and negatively.
On the positive side, researchers note that even though stem cells can grow and divide rapidly in a laboratory environment, this growth is often inhibited by various factors. Often this lack of growth and replication occurs because the cells have nothing to bind to; there is the absence of a framework. Noting this, scientists made a correlation. If laminin can provide a matrix within the human body for cells and other structures, then maybe it can provide a similar sort of structure or matrix within a laboratory setting. Recognizing this, companies, such as Stem Cell, have begun to market laminin-based products to include in cell cultures. Ideally, this laminin will bind these stem cells together, allowing meaningful-sized cultures to be grown.
What Does Additional Research Say?
In addition to research into how laminin can provide the necessary structure to ensure successful stem cell growth in a culture, scientists have also looked into other important interactions between laminin and stem cells. One particularly important area of research has been into the potential link between laminin and cancer stem cells.
Laminin and Cancer Stem Cells
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Initially, researchers looked at laminin specifically in relation to breast cancer. These researchers developed a breakthrough theory known as dynamic reciprocity. Dynamic reciprocity explains that the health of a cell is determined by communication between a cell’s extracellular matrix and the cell’s nucleus. Since laminin is an important component in the extracellular matrix, it seems clear that it will play an essential role in this communication process. These researchers discovered that laminin-111 played a role in creating cellular quiescence. Cellular quiescence occurs when a cell stops dividing at a rapid rate — and, cancer in its most basic form is the uninhibited growth of cells. This led to the thought that if laminin-111 could promote cellular quiescence, then it could perhaps effectively stop cancerous cells from multiplying in the person’s body.
It is important to note that this action of creating cellular quiescence was not direct. Instead, there was an intermediate step. Laminin-111 within the cells acts to destroy nuclear actin. Without this nuclear actin cellular growth is inhibited.
These initial results seemed to suggest that if the production of laminin-111 could be stimulated in the extracellular matrix then the growth of cancerous cells could be inhibited. And, additional research has been carried out on this topic in the intervening years.
The Hope To Improve Patient Outcomes
This research has largely confirmed the initial research, suggesting that laminins may play a critical role in fighting cancer stem cells, no matter what type of cancer. Additionally, the research seems to suggest that if medicine can accurately measure the amount of laminin in a person’s extracellular matrix that they may be able to more accurately predict what patients will respond well to conventional cancer therapy and which patients may be at a greater risk of relapsing. If at-risk patients can accurately be identified, then it may be possible to adjust the treatment to mitigate the risk.
Ultimately, the goal of this scientific research should be to translate information about the link between laminin and cancer stem cells into improved patient outcomes.
This Is Not the Only Important Role for Laminin
Although the link between laminin and cancer stem cells is a vital area for oncological research, it is not the only way that laminin interacts with stem cells. Other research indicates that laminin is critical in the development of neural stem cells.
Studies indicate that in the human body, stem cells exist in locations that have been described as niches. These niches in which stem cells grow and multiply tend to be environments that are naturally rich in laminin and other components of the extracellular matrix. Recognizing this, studies looked to determine if they could create artificial, but laminin-rich environments in the laboratory. The studies seemed to indicate that this was possible. By adding laminin to the assays, results indicated that the neural stem cell cultures grew at a far faster rate than before the addition of laminin.
Since neural stem cell cultures may hold the key to addressing degenerative neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease and muscular dystrophy, to name just two. If these stem cell cultures can more successfully be grown in a laboratory setting than research may be able to progress at a far faster rate.
If laminin is the key to this, then additional research should likely be carried out to determine which forms of laminin may be most useful in a laboratory and/or clinical setting. As indicated above, laminin-111 has already been shown to be successful in certain laboratory settings. However, that does not mean that it is the only form of laminin that may work or even the most effective form. Additional research clearly needs to be carried out on this topic.
For decades, scientists underestimated laminin and its role in the human body. They believed that laminin was simply a binding agent that held various structures together. However, recent research indicates that laminin is much more than that. The entire extracellular matrix, which includes significant amounts of laminin, communicates directly with the cell’s nucleus. And, this communication between the matrix and the nucleus guides a wide variety of functions, including inhibiting or stimulating growth. Thus, it could be critical to a wide range of oncology treatments. And, this is not the only area in which laminin is vital. Laminin may also be critical to stimulating neural cell development, which in turn could hold the key to treating a wide range of neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy.
Additional research still needs to be performed.
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