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Study finds that cancer-causing gene crucial in stem cell development
Date:9/2/2010

Athens, Ga. Stem cells might be thought of as trunks in the tree of life. All multi-cellular organisms have them, and they can turn into a dazzling variety other cellskidney, brain, heart or skin, for example. One class, pluripotent stem cells, has the capacity to turn into virtually any cell type in the body, making them a focal point in the development of cell therapies, the conquering of age-old diseases or even regrowing defective body parts.

Now, a research team at the University of Georgia has shown for the first time that a gene called Myc (pronounced "mick") may be far more important in the development and persistence of stem cells than was known before. Myc is traditionally thought of as a cancer-causing gene, or oncogene, but recent studies from the UGA team have established critical roles for it in stem cell biology. The discovery has important implications for the basic understanding of developmental processes and how stem cells can be used for therapeutic purposes.

"This new research has uncovered a really unexpected role for Myc," said Stephen Dalton, GRA Eminent Scholar of Molecular Cell Biology and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scientist at UGA. "Our work here represents the first mechanistic characterization of how Myc controls the pluripotent stem cell state."

The research was published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Other authors of the paper include Keriayn Smith and Amar Singh of the Dalton lab at UGA. Smith left recently to begin a postdoc at the University of North Carolina. Dalton also is a member of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and is affiliated with the UGA Cancer Center and the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute.

In previous work, Dalton and his colleagues showed that Myc is critical for stem cell maintenance and that it affects widespread changes in gene expression. This latter function is crucial when stem
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Contact: Stephen Dalton
sdalton@uga.edu
706-542-9857
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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