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PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58601. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058601. Epub 2013 Mar 7.

MUC1* ligand, NM23-H1, is a novel growth factor that maintains human stem cells in a more naïve state.

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  • 1Minerva Biotechnologies, Waltham, Massachusetts, United States of America.


We report that a single growth factor, NM23-H1, enables serial passaging of both human ES and iPS cells in the absence of feeder cells, their conditioned media or bFGF in a fully defined xeno-free media on a novel defined, xeno-free surface. Stem cells cultured in this system show a gene expression pattern indicative of a more "naïve" state than stem cells grown in bFGF-based media. NM23-H1 and MUC1* growth factor receptor cooperate to control stem cell self-replication. By manipulating the multimerization state of NM23-H1, we override the stem cell's inherent programming that turns off pluripotency and trick the cells into continuously replicating as pluripotent stem cells. Dimeric NM23-H1 binds to and dimerizes the extra cellular domain of the MUC1* transmembrane receptor which stimulates growth and promotes pluripotency. Inhibition of the NM23-H1/MUC1* interaction accelerates differentiation and causes a spike in miR-145 expression which signals a cell's exit from pluripotency.

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