College of Science & Engineering
Fusion of donor mesenchymal stem cells with parenchymal cells of the recipient can occur in the brain, liver, intestine, and heart following transplantation. The therapeutic benefit or detriment of resultant hybrids is unknown. These researchers seek to obtain a global view of phenotypic diversification of mesenchymal stem cell-parenchymal hybrids and associated time course. Using single-cell RNA-seq, they have found hybrids can express a transcriptome similar to individual fusion partners, but can also acquire distinct expression profiles in one day. Some hybrids underwent reprogramming, expressing pluripotency and precursor genes latent in parental cells. Other hybrids differentially expressed genes associated with ontologic cancer sets and three hybrids clustered with breast cancer cells, expressing critical oncogenes and lacking tumor suppressor genes. Rapid transcriptional diversification of this type garners consideration in the context of cellular transplantation to damaged tissues, those with viral infection or other microenvironmental conditions that might promote fusion.