Cancer Stem Cell Differentiation In Reverse, Spontaneously
This article was originally published in Start Up
Scientists have now shown that both normal and cancerous mammary cells may spontaneously "de-differentiate" into stem cells without any genetic manipulations. This apparently innate cellular plasticity suggests new possibilities for utilizing cultured cells both as a tool in the discovery of cancer therapies that target cancer stem cells and also as an autologous therapy in regenerative medicine.
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A wave of recent deals demonstrates a growing belief in the potential cancer stem cells might offer for more effective cancer therapies. Some say there’s more hope and hype than science behind the activity. As the science unfolds, fundamental questions have yet to be answered about the pathway to products, especially as drug developers train their lines of sight on solid tumors.
Whether a range of organ-specific stem cells exists and can be harnessed for potential therapy is an open question, but encouragingly, researchers have now provided evidence of human lung-specific stem cells. In addition to their potential role in regenerative medicine of the lung, continuing research around the methods used to find these cells could be a starting point for the development of improved methods for identifying enriched or more potent organ-specific stem cell populations.
The science of stem cells is progressing, slowly but surely, towards the ultimate goal of creating a therapeutic. The challenge is now largely economic: convincing investors that stem cells present a viable business opportunity.