Cancer stem cells

Published on June 30, 2022   39 min

Other Talks in the Series: The Molecular Basis of Cancer

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Hello. My name is Wenjun Guo. I'm an Associate Professor of Cell Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Today, I will give a basic introduction to the concepts and principles of cancer stem cells. The research field of cancer stem cells is vast and rapidly evolving. In this lecture, I will only cover a very limited area of cancer stem cell biology, with focuses on initial conception and the discovery of cancer stem cells, the experimental approaches for studying cancer stem cells and the current prevailing models. Much of this information is likely to be refined and revised by future studies.
First, to discuss cancer stem cells, we need to talk about normal tissue stem cell hierarchy. Many tissue types in our body are maintained by multipotent tissue-specific stem cells. For example, the hematopoietic stem cells constantly regenerate all the blood cell lineages in our body. These multipotent stem cells are long-lived and have unlimited self-renewal ability. Furthermore, they have the capacity to generate transit-amplifying/progenitor cells that can fully differentiate into mature cell types within that tissue. These transit-amplifying progenitor cells have a limited lifespan and a limited self-renewal capacity, needing to be continuously replenished by multipotent stem cells.
However, more recently, people have found that some tissue types can also be maintained by more committed so-called unipotent stem cells. For example, the mammary gland. In these tissue types, the multipotent stem cells are required for the initial embryonic development. However, at later stages, such as postnatal, distinct mature cell types can be replenished by unipotent stem cells with restricted differentiation potential. Distinct from transit-amplifying progenitors, these unipotent stem cells are long-lived and with unlimited self-renewal ability. Different from multipotent stem cells, the unipotent stem cells do not produce all the cell types within the tissue. This heterogeneity of the stem cell pools within a given tissue provided us with new frameworks for studying cancer cell origin and the cancer cell states.