Genentech researchers have successfully used a single stem cell to grow prostate glands in mice, a finding that is vague in its consequences for prostate cancer research, given that the prostate seems to serve little purpose in the body.
From Scientific American:
Three markers had previously been associated with stem cells in the prostate; these researchers discovered an additional marker dubbed CD117 that allowed them to isolate individual stem cells from the glands in adult mice.
To confirm that these cells were, in fact, stem cells, the scientists transferred them into the kidneys of adult mice. Within eight weeks, the researchers observed characteristic prostate tissue architecture and could measure the secretion of prostate-specific chemicals from the growing transplants.
By homing in on the stem cells, researchers can now examine how this cell population helps regulate growth in the prostate, says Leisa Johnson, a molecular biologist at Genentech, Inc., in South San Francisco, Calif., and co-author of the study appearing in Nature. Comparing the markers on these stem cells with those on the surfaces of cancer cells, Johnson adds, will also help scientists determine if stem cells contribute to prostate malignancies.
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Image: A colour-enhanced image showing a clump of prostate cancer cells. Scanning electron micrograph. Wellcome Images.