Stems cells and the pathways to aging and cancer

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Stems cells and the pathways to aging and cancer.

stems cells and the pathways to aging and cancer

Session 4: Cancer Stem Cells - Mark Chao

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Characterized by dysfunction of tissues, organs, organ systems and the whole organism, aging results from the reduced function of effective stem cell populations. Recent advances in aging research have demonstrated that old tissue stem cells can be rejuvenated for the purpose of maintaining the old-organ function by youthful re-calibration of the environment where stem cells reside. Biochemical cues regulating tissue stem cell function include molecular signaling pathways that interact between stem cells themselves and their niches. Historically, plasma fractions have been shown to contain factors capable of controlling age phenotypes; subsequently, signaling pathways involved in the aging process have been identified. Several synthetic agents and natural sources, such as phytochemicals and flavonoids, have been proposed to rejuvenate old stem cells by targeting these pathways.

Aging is the inevitable time-dependent decline in physiological organ function and is a major risk factor for cancer development. Due to advances in health care, hygiene control and food availability, life expectancy is increasing and the population in most developed countries is shifting to an increasing proportion of people at a cancer susceptible age. Mechanisms of aging are also found to occur in carcinogenesis, albeit with shared or divergent end-results. It is now clear that aging and cancer development either share or diverge in several disease mechanisms. Such mechanisms include the role of genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic changes, loss of proteostasis, decreased nutrient sensing and altered metabolism, but also cellular senescence and stem cell function. Cancer cells and aged cells are also fundamentally opposite, as cancer cells can be thought of as hyperactive cells with advantageous mutations, rapid cell division and increased energy consumption, while aged cells are hypoactive with accumulated disadvantageous mutations, cell division inability and a decreased ability for energy production and consumption.

New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works. The findings potentially pave the way for better cancer treatments and revolutionary new drugs that could vastly improve human health in the twilight years. To achieve this, lead author Alireza Delfarah, a graduate student in the Graham lab, focused on senescence, a natural process in which cells permanently stop creating new cells. This process is one of the key causes of age-related decline, manifesting in diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease. It's an irreversible state of cell cycle arrest.

The cancer stem cell CSC hypothesis suggests that only a subpopulation of cells within a tumour is responsible for the initiation and progression of neoplasia. The original and best evidence for the existence of CSCs came from advances in the field of haematological malignancies. Thus far, putative CSCs have been isolated from various solid and non-solid tumours and shown to possess self-renewal, differentiation, and cancer regeneration properties. Although research in the field is progressing extremely fast, proof of concept for the CSC hypothesis is still lacking and key questions remain unanswered, e. Nevertheless, it is undisputed that neoplastic transformation is associated with genetic and epigenetic alterations of normal cells, and a better understanding of these complex processes is of utmost importance for developing new anti-cancer therapies. In the present review, we discuss the CSC hypothesis with special emphasis on age-associated alterations that govern carcinogenesis, at least in some types of tumours.

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New cause of cell aging discovered

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