Researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam have discovered a common link between cancer cells and stem cells. Together with colleagues from the University of Zurich, Merel Lingbeek and NWO pioneer Prof. Maarten van Lohuizen published their findings on 18 March 2004 in Nature.
Because cancer cells and stem cells can both reproduce themselves in unlimited numbers, it was suspected that they have something in common. That suspicion proved to be correct. Together with their Swiss colleagues, researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute discovered an important common link: the BMI1 gene.
Stem cells, the ’original cells’, develop into specialised body cells by first of all making many copies of themselves. Once this copying process has been completed, they stop dividing and start differentiating into specialised cells, for example, a brain cell. But sometimes this process goes wrong. Instead of differentiating, the stem cells retain the expression pattern of a stem cell and keep on copying themselves. This is how medulloblastomas, the most frequently occurring form of brain cancer in children, can develop.
Sonja Jacobs | alfa
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