The SSEA-4 molecule was known to be on the surface of embryonic stem cells, as well as on embryonic carcinoma cells, the malignant counterparts of embryonic stem cells.
Dr. Perlingeiro’s ongoing studies also suggest that the SSEA-4 molecule might be present in other tissues, leading to the intriguing possibility that the SSEA-4 molecule could be a marker for “stemness,?she said.
“The discovery of this molecule on MSCs was surprising, and is important to further our understanding of the biological nature of adult stem cells,?Dr. Perlingeiro said. “We are also interested in learning whether SSEA-4 is expressed on other stem cells, such as those for muscle.
“It could actually be useful where we see less of it, as in tissues with very few stem cells. This marker could help us separate out those rare cells more easily.?
She and her team also are investigating the SSEA-4 molecule’s relationship to cancer stem cells, those cells in a tumor that behave like stem cells in that they self-renew and maintain the cancer even if most of the tumor is destroyed by radiation or chemotherapy.
“Is the expression of this marker elevated in a tumor" If so, perhaps it might be useful to identify cancer stem cells, but we don’t know yet,?Dr. Perlingeiro said. “That would be a very beneficial application, not just for guiding therapy, but also for early cancer detection and perhaps prevention.?
Source:UT Southwestern Medical Center