Stem cell biology and cancer

New findings about genetic factors controlling stem cell differentiation suggests that similar mechanisms may be involved in tumor formation.

Research on adult stem cells found in the skin hints at a new class of
genes, according to a study from investigators at the University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine. These genes – dubbed pangenes – can
both govern a stem cell’s fate and put a hold on future differentiation
until the time is right. Understanding the molecular control of these
genes has implications for therapies that involve tissue regeneration.

“My idea is that this is a new family of genes—they can both determine
the cell type, but also put the breaks on differentiation,” says
[Dr. Jon] Epstein.

Epstein thinks that this concept may also be important for
understanding the cell of origin for a number of tumors. Pax3 is known
to be involved in some tumors, which adds evidence to the stem-cell
origin for some cancers. This theory proposes that many cancers may
arise from normally scarce resident stem cells that grow
uncontrollably, rather than from the vast majority of differentiated
cells that make up organs where cancers are found. If this theory is
correct, resident stem cells in the skin could be the cells that turn
into skin cancers like melanoma. Understanding stem cell biology may
therefore be important for developing new therapies for cancer.

Yep. I’ve got a hunch down there in the inner gears of cells where differentiation takes place they’re gonna find a tie-in between stem cell processes and cancer cell precesses in many cases.

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