Despite enormous progress in cancer therapy, many patients still relapse because their treatment addresses the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause, the so-called stem cells. Work in the group of Veronika Sexl at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has given a tantalizing clue to a solution. In the current issue of Blood, the scientists report that the cell-cycle kinase CDK6 is required for activation of the stem cells responsible for causing leukemia.
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are normally inactive, i.e. quiescent. When new blood cells are needed, for example to replace blood that has been lost, HSCs start to multiply and develop into mature blood cells. If the process is initiated at an inappropriate time, hematopoietic diseases such as leukemia may result and leukemic stem cells may develop.
These represent a major challenge to leukemia therapy: they are quiescent and thus protected from elimination by the immune system and from treatment such as chemotherapy. Leukemic stem cells frequently cause relapse in cancer patients, often years or even decades after an apparently successful treatment.
Working with stem cells isolated from mice, Ruth Scheicher and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have investigated possible differences between leukemic stem cells and the healthy stem cells in the body.
They looked in particular at the function of the CDK6 protein, which is known to be involved in controlling the cell cycle. Surprisingly, CDK6 was also found to regulate the activation of hematopoietic and leukemic stem cells, which it does by inhibiting the transcription factor Egr1. Upon loss of CDK6, Egr1 becomes active and prevents stem cells from dividing.
In a further twist to the tale, the mechanism operates only when hematopoietic stem cells are stressed, e.g. in leukemia, and not in the normal physiological situation.
Scheicher is quick to note the significance of her finding. “CDK6 is absolutely necessary for leukemic stem cells to induce disease but plays no part in normal hematopoiesis. We thus have a novel opportunity to target leukemia at its origin. Inhibiting CDK6 should attack leukemic stem cells while leaving healthy HSCs unaffected”.
The article ‘CDK6 as a key regulator of hematopoietic and leukemic stem cell activation’ by Scheicher R, Hoelbl-Kovacic A, Bellutti F, Tigan AS, Prchal-Murphy M, Heller G, Schneckenleithner C, Salazar-Roa M, Zöchbauer-Müller S, Zuber J, Malumbres M, Kollmann K and Sexl V. was published in the journal Blood.
About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,300 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at
Prof. Veronika Sexl
Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-2910
Science Communication / Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
T +43 1 25077-1153
Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine