June 12, 2012
Stem Cells As Source Of Breast Cancer

Too many multipotent progenitor stem cells combined with a decline in tumor suppressing myoepithelial cells likely combine to create conditions favorable for cancer to develop.

Mark LaBarge, a cell and molecular biologist in Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division, led a study in which it was determined that aging causes an increase in multipotent progenitors – a type of adult stem cell believed to be at the root of many breast cancers – and a decrease in the myoepithelial cells that line the breast’s milk-producing luminal cells and are believed to serve as tumor suppressors.

This result reminds me of Aubrey de Grey's argument that rejuvenation therapies are the best way to prevent diseases of old age. A key goal for rejuvenation is to get rid of cells that work poorly or which do harm. Another key goal is to increase the supply of cells that do necessary repair and regulatory functions. Achieve both those goals in breasts and the incidence of breast cancer would drop sharply.

“This is a big step towards understanding the cellular basis for age-related vulnerability to breast cancer,” LaBarge says. “Now that we have defined some of the cell and molecular changes that occur in the epithelium during the aging process and we have the ability to assay them functionally, it should be possible to look for ways to avoid those states and perhaps even reverse them.”

Stem cell therapies and other cell therapies aren't just about doing repairs. If we can replace aged stem cells with youthful stem cells we can reduce the risk of cancer. Stem cells collect mutations as they age. Old mutated cells do a poorer job at tissue repair while at the same time accumulation of dangerous combinations of mutations put stem cells closer to the point where they will start dividing uncontrollably.

The use of stem cell therapies to reduce cancer risk looks challenging because the new stem cells have to displace the existing aged stem cells.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 June 12 10:16 PM  Aging Cancer Studies

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