Friday, November 26, 2004

Stem cells and specific cancers

In the last two weeks there have been additional reports of abnormal stem cell behavior resulting in specific types of cancer. Stem cells are of therapeutic interest because they are able to give rise to very many cell types- skin, muscle, you name it-- and with the right growth conditions they can continue to propagate for a long time. It is best understood how to isolate stem cells from embryos, but there is increasing attention to stem cell populations in adult bodies. One could foresee a day when stem cells could be isolated from an adult's healthy tissue, grown up, and then given back to that same person. But the potential and drawbacks are not fully known!

These papers highlight the idea that studies in stem cell biology may improve understanding of the earliest events in some cancers as well. Go California!!!!

The studies in the last week are all in Science and Nature and are behind subscription walls. This is a very interesting topic to me, so I will try to get out a public-access set of links soon.
So here are the links:
The lab of Tim Wang will have an article on gastric cancers arising from circulating Bone Marrow derived Stem Cells (BMSCs), to appear in Science this week. (subscription link here )
Phil Beachey et al. have written a review highlighting Wnt and Notch abnormalities in cells repairing injured tissues, and hypothesize possible derangement of the repair response in cancer stem cells in the November 18 Nature. (free link here ; Subscriber link is here .)
Singh et al., studying human brain glioblastomas, give evidence that these tumors originate as CD133+ brain stem cells. This work is in the same issue of Nature. (free link here and News and Views here )

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