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Stem cells may look malignant, not act it

GAINESVILLE, Fla. Call it the cellular equivalent of big glasses, a funny nose and a fake mustache.

Bone marrow stem cells attracted to the site of a cancerous growth frequently take on the outward appearance of the malignant cells around them, University of Florida researchers report in a paper to be published in the August issue of Stem Cells.

But whether that enables them to fuel cancer's ability to develop and then spread, as some scientists suspect, is not entirely clear. The findings, available early in this month's online edition of the journal, actually contest the increasingly popular theory that bone marrow stem cells seed cancer. Instead, these cells might simply look like cancer, not act like it.

"They have the same kind of surface proteins," said study author Chris Cogle, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the UF's College of Medicine Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. "They have the same skin. The next question is 'Do they have the same guts"'

"Our results indicate these cells act as developmental mimics; they come in and look like the surrounding neoplastic tissue, but they aren't actually the seed of cancer," said Cogle, who also is affiliated with the UF Shands Cancer Center. "At the worst, these cells could help support cancerous tissue by providing it with growth factors or proteins that help the cancer grow and survive. At the very least, these marrow cells are just being tricked into coming into the cancerous environment and then made to walk and talk like they don't usually do."

The researchers have coined the term "developmental mimicry" to describe the phenomenon, which could have implications for the integrity of the cell lines scientists use to test new cancer drugs in the lab.

Up to 5 percent of cancerous tissue contains marrow-derived cells that look just like surrounding cancer. So when malignant tissue is grown in the laboratory for experimen
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Contact: Melanie Fridl Ross
ufcardiac@aol.com
352-690-7051
University of Florida
23-May-2007


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