Biologists find way to reduce stem cell loss during cancer treatment

Sep 05, 2010

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have discovered that a gene critical for programmed cell death is also important in the loss of adult stem cells, a finding that could help to improve the health and well-being of patients undergoing cancer treatment.

"During chemotherapy or that kills by inducing significant in their genomes, one of the main side effects for human cancer patients is the depletion of their own adult stem cells, particularly the ones responsible for making new blood and intestine cells. So these patients become anemic, lose appetite and a lot of weight," said Yang Xu, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the team that published its findings in this week's advance online issue of the journal Nature Cell Biology. "If we can prevent the loss of stem cells during , that would be very beneficial for these patients."

Scientists have long known that when normal cells accumulate significant amount of DNA damage, such as during cancer therapy, the tumor suppressor p53 is activated, which leads cells to stop dividing, go into hibernation and undergo a called apoptosis. They've also known that a gene called Puma, an acronym for "p53-unregulated modulator of apoptosis," is critical for p53 to initiate the cell death of DNA-damaged cells.

Using genetically modified mice with persistently activated p53, Xu and his colleagues discovered that, once activated, p53 depletes various adult stem cells, including the ones that are responsible for generating new blood and intestine cells. In addition, Puma is critical for this p53-dependent depletion of various adult stem cells.

"Since p53 is a critical tumor suppressor, you cannot suppress p53 to prevent the depletion of adult stem cells since it will induce cancer," said Xu. "But you can target Puma to prevent p53-mediated depletion of adult stem cells, because a Puma deficiency does not promote the development of cancer. This gives us a nice target for preventing the p53-dependent depletion of adult stem cells in response to DNA damage. If you can suppress Puma function, you can rescue a lot of the that would otherwise be lost after the accumulation of DNA damage such as during cancer therapy."

Explore further: Fungus deadly to AIDS patients found to grow on trees

Related Stories

Preventing cancer without killing cells

Mar 30, 2007

Inducing senescence in aged cells may be sufficient to guard against spontaneous cancer development, according to a paper published online this week in EMBO reports. It was previously unknown whether cellular senescence or ...

'Cheater' Cells May Spur Cancer Growth

Apr 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study from the Yale School of Medicine reveals a biological struggle within tissue that allows some damaged cells to survive and proliferate, eventually leading to cancer. The study ...

Recommended for you

How plant cell compartments change with cell growth

11 hours ago

A research team led by Kiminori Toyooka from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science has developed a sophisticated microscopy technique that for the first time captures the detailed movement of ...

Plants can 'switch off' virus DNA

11 hours ago

A team of virologists and plant geneticists at Wageningen UR has demonstrated that when tomato plants contain Ty-1 resistance to the important Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), parts of the virus DNA ...

A better understanding of cell to cell communication

12 hours ago

Researchers of the ISREC Institute at the School of Life Sciences, EPFL, have deciphered the mechanism whereby some microRNAs are retained in the cell while others are secreted and delivered to neighboring ...

A glimpse at the rings that make cell division possible

12 hours ago

Forming like a blown smoke ring does, a "contractile ring" similar to a tiny muscle pinches yeast cells in two. The division of cells makes life possible, but the actual mechanics of this fundamental process ...

User comments : 0