Stem cells possess amazing ability to multiply but more importantly they can differentiate into other cells. This ability is called pluripotent. But they also have a darker side. They can turn cancerous except the presence of the protein ARTS (Apoptosis Related Protein in TGF beta Signaling Pathway).
DNA in the cell is monitored continously to make sure it does not turn cancerous. If it turns cancerous (rogue) the cell is triggered to self distruct. This self-distruction mechanism is called Apoptisis or programmed cell death. The gene that tirggers this is knonw as p53. Presence of ARTS protein accelerates programmed cell death. Enough background on Apoptosis. Want to know more read this.
Research associate Maria Garcia-Fernandez, Hermann Steller, head of the Strang Laboratory of Apoptosis and Cancer Biology, and their colleagues explored the activity of a gene called Sept4, which encodes a protein, ARTS, that increases programmed cell death, or apoptosis, by antagonizing other proteins that prevent cell death. ARTS was originally discovered by Sarit Larisch, a visiting professor at Rockefeller, and is found to be lacking in human leukemia and other cancers, suggesting it suppresses tumors. To study the role of ARTS, the experimenters bred a line of mice genetically engineered to lack the Sept4 gene.
Indeed, the ARTS-deprived mice developed spontaneous tumors at about twice the rate of their controls. "We make a connection between apoptosis, stem cells and cancer that has not been made in this way before: this pathway is critically important in stem cell death and in reducing tumor risk," Steller says. "The work supports the idea that the stem cell is the seed of the tumor and that the transition from a normal stem cell to a cancer stem cell involves increased resistance to apoptosis."
ARTS interferes with molecules called inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs), which prevent cells from killing themselves. By inhibiting these inhibitors, under the right circumstances ARTS helps to take the brakes off the process of apoptosis, permitting the cell to die on schedule. Pharmaceutical companies are working to develop small molecule IAP antagonists, but this research is the first to show that inactivating a natural IAP antagonist actually causes tumors to grow, Steller says. It also suggests that the premature silencing of the Sept4/ARTS pathway at the stem cell level may herald cancer to come.
This is very promising research. Gives hope against Cancer and also helps us better understand and control stem cells as stem cells use comes closer to reality.
Read e! science news for the detailed article.
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