Scientists from the Salk Institute identified genetic characteristics of fetal stem cells that may lead to breast cancer, according to a report published on February 4, 2019.
A century later, scientists have uncovered a reason for the uncanny likeness: cells in human basal-like breast cancers share features with the embryonic mammary (breast) stem cells that are the progenitors of all cell types in the mammary gland (of a mouse).
Professor Geoffrey Wahl, senior author of the work, said, “He anticipated the relatedness of cells in the embryo to those in malignant cancers -- and that dormant cancer cells could be 'reawakened' by exposure to 'persistent irritations' that we now recognize as inflammation. We can use the insights gained from our work to develop better diagnostic and treatment strategies.”
Researchers used cutting-edge techniques to generate an atlas of the genes expressed in each breast cell from very early in development until adulthood, a process that required an analysis of many thousands of cells. ‘Single-cell-transcriptome atlas’ were used by the researchers for comparing genes expressed in human breast cancers. This helped them to understand how stem cells of the breast arise in early development and how they turn into the two different types of cells that comprise the mature gland.
Furthermore, with the knowledge of the genetic signatures of different cell states, the lab is developing new ways of looking at the reprogramming of adult cells into states associated with cancer.
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