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New induced stem cells may unmask cancer at earliest stage
Date:2/3/2011

ogramming of marrow cells from a patient with chronic myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood that kills about 1,500 people a year in the United States. The disease, like all leukemias, starts in the cells that produce white blood cells in bone marrow.

According to Slukvin, the induced stem cells generated from the diseased tissue retain the exact same complex of genetic abnormalities found in the mature cancer cells. That means that when the induced cells are turned back into blood, scientists could, in theory, watch cancer develop from scratch as cells bearing cancer mutations become cancer stem cells.

"When we differentiate induced stem cells back to blood, we can identify the stages when the abnormality that leads to cancer manifests itself," Slukvin explains.

The ability to pinpoint the very earliest stages of cancer is a major focus of biomedical science.

"This is very important for developing new leukemia drugs," says Slukvin. "A major focus of leukemia research is to find ways to try and eliminate the most immature leukemia cells - cancer stem cells."

The work by Slukvin and his team may represent the first step in a new understanding of the cascade of events that results in blood diseases such as leukemia.

Employing the reprogramming technique developed by Thomson and his colleagues, Slukvin emphasizes, is important because it eliminates the exotic reprogramming genes, some of which are cancer-related genes, from the induced stem cell equation. In the case of chronic myeloid leukemia and other blood diseases, obtaining stem cells that do not have the genetic reprogramming factors is very important.

"When you use viruses (to ferry genes into a cell) you have chromosomal integration," the Wisconsin researcher notes. "Some of the reprogramming factors are oncogenes and would interfere with a study of chronic myeloid leukemia" whose abnormalities are also encoded on the chromosome.


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Contact: Igor Slukvin
islukvin@wisc.edu
608-263-0058
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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