Turning diseased blood cells to stem cells may reveal cancer quickly

Saturday, February 5, 2011

WASHINGTON - A study has successfully turned healthy and diseased cells into stem cells, thereby paving way for observing the onset of the blood cancer leukaemia in the laboratory dish.

“This is the first successful reprogramming of blood cells obtained from a patient with leukaemia,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Igor Slukvin.

“We were able to turn the diseased cells back into pluripotent stem cells. This is important because it provides a new model for the study of cancer cells,” he added.

According to Slukvin’s study, reprogramming blood cells to become induced stem cells is many times more efficient than the reprogramming of skin cells.

The new work could open to science vast repositories of banked tissue, both healthy and diseased, such as bone marrow, the soft tissue in bones that helps make blood, and umbilical cord blood.

The results could also help experts unmask the cellular events that go awry and cause cancers such as leukaemia, and could aid the development of new stem cell-based therapies, according to Slukvin.

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.

“This is very important for developing new leukaemia drugs. A major focus of leukaemia research is to find ways to try and eliminate the most immature leukaemia cells - cancer stem cells,” he said.

The study appears in the journal Blood. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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