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Ability to isolate and grow breast tissue stem cells could speed cancer research
Date:5/7/2014

nd stained them so that new stem cells appeared a different color from differentiated mammary cells. Then, they began testing the effects of two proteinsknown as CRIPTO and GRP78that play significant roles in both stem cell biology and embryonic development.

"In normal conditions, we first see the cells as yellowthe combination of red and green within a single cellthen later see cells that are either red or green, showing that our cells had the capacity to make two different types of mature cells," says Spike. "But then when we do the experiment again and start changing protein levels, the ratio of these cells becomes very different."

The researchers found that when they blocked CRIPTO, the cells mostly formed differentiated cells instead of new stem cells. Over time, this stem cell population shrank since they weren't repopulating themselves. When they instead boosted levels of CRIPTO, the stem cell colony grew as new stem cells were produced more often than differentiated cells.

In studies in mice, the scientists also found that CRIPTO helped the animals form new mammary tissues, which led the team to hypothesize that CRIPTO may be produced by nearby cells in the fat to spur the growth of breast tissue.

In a previous study, Gray's group had discovered that the protein GRP78 binds CRIPTO on the surface of cells and regulates CRIPTO function. This prompted the scientists to test whether GRP78 had an effect on the mammary stem cells. As they suspected, when cells lacked GRP78 on their surfaces, they didn't respond to CRIPTO.

Both CRIPTO and GRP78 have been implicated in cancers, including breast cancer and lung cancers. Scientists think high levels of either protein could encourage tumor growth using similar pathways that they use to spur breast tissue growth. With the new ability to isolate and sustain mammary stem cells, Spike and Gray hope they can uncover details on exactly what cellular programs CRIPTO and GRP78 activate. U
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Contact: Chris Emery
Cemery@salk.edu
858-453-4100
Salk Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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