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Newly-discovered class of genes determines ?and restricts ?stem cell fate

new family of genes--they can both determine the cell type, but also put the breaks on differentiation," says Epstein. "We have named them pangenes, after the Greek god Pan and Peter Pan, who were able to orchestrate complex events while never growing old."

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.

Adult resident stem cells have been identified in many types of organs and may be a potential reservoir for tissue regeneration. A fundamental understanding of the molecular programs that regulate stem-cell differentiation is necessary for harnessing this potential.

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This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Epstein's coauthors are Deborah Lang, Min Min Lu, Li Huang, Kurt A. Engleka, Maozhen Zhang, Emily Y. Chu, and Sarah Millar from Penn; and Shari Lipner and Arthur Skoultchi from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.


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Source:University of Pennsylvania


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