Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world. You are at risk of cancer if your cells divide at an abnormal rate. That can be attributed to the lifestyle, as well as certain risk factors like obesity and smoking.
However, research suggests that stem cell mutation have a major role to play when it comes to cancer development. Researchers at University of Cambridge and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital found that certain mutations that are present in stem cells do have a huge role to play in the development of cancer, according to a study that was published in Cell.
For years, the scientific community debated whether or not cancer can be caused by mutations in stem cells or it is due to environmental factors such as exposure to carcinogens, lifestyle, and so much more.
According to Richard Gilbertson, the director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Center, this huge disagreement was due to the use of highly varied mathematical models that peer into existing human cancer (various forms) and stem cell data that we have collected so far. This can prove to be extremely difficult since there are so many factors that could potentially lead to cancer.
In order to find things out, Gilbertson and his team set forth to test these differing opinions in actual experiments that look at different factors that can lead to the deadly condition.
In a research that was done at the Johns Hopkins University back in 2015, a group of researchers published a paper that would reinforce the notion that indeed, stem cell mutations are the leading causes of cancer. This was the conclusion they’ve arrived at after finding that a number of stem cell divisions a certain tissue might undergo in its lifetime could help explain 65% or more of the different varieties of cancer risk among various tissue types.
In another study done in December, Yusuf Hannun of Stony Brook University and his team found that environmental factors are the main culprits when it comes to getting cancer. They have a strong belief that this was the case.
To help end this confusion and debate once and for all, Gilbertson and his colleagues would use Prom1- a marker molecule. This will help the researchers track cell division activity in their mice subjects.
Co-author Liqin Zhu said that by following the journey of the marker cells in the body of the mice, they were able to identify the organs that would have any abnormal cell division.
In every organ where abnormal stem cell division occurs, they would introduce some DNA mutations into these cells. By doing this, the researchers effectively rule out the possibility that carcinogens are to be blamed for cancer development.
In conclusion, the cells that have abnormal rates of mutations are the ones that are more likely to develop to cancer.
However, the researchers also pointed out that when you experience such phenomenon, you also have to take into account that the body’s normal response would be to release new stem cells as a means to replenish the ones that are lost.