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CNIO researchers discover a gene that links stem cells, aging and cancer
Date:7/17/2014

An organism is healthy thanks to a good maintenance system: the normal functioning of organs and environmental exposure cause damage to tissues, which need to be continuously repaired. This process is not yet well understood, but it is known that stem cells in the organs play a key role, and that when repair fails, the organism ages more quickly. Researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) have "discovered one of the key genes that make up the maintenance mechanism for tissues" says Miguel Foronda, the first author of the manuscript.

The study is published this week in the journal Cell Reports. The authors believe that it adds another piece to the ageing, stem cells and cancer puzzle, made up of three main elements that are known to be related, but no one knows exactly how. By understanding this relationship throughout identification key regulatory genes, we could have a different, perhaps more unified, vision of these three areas with enormous implications for health.

The target of this research, the Sox4 gene, is expressed during embryonic development it contributes, for example, to the development of the pancreas, the bones and the heart, and to the differentiation of lymphocytes. It is also active in the adult organism, but in a very limited way, being mainly restricted to some stem cell compartments.

Furthermore, when Sox4 malfunctions it becomes an oncogene. Practically all human cancers have too much Sox4, which translates into more cellular proliferation and less apoptosisprogrammed cell death; a mechanism that protects against cancer. It is also known that Sox4 plays a role in metastasis.

Both of these factsthat Sox4 is expressed only in some cells in the adult organism, and that it favours cancer development when there is too much of itindicate that Sox4 is a powerful gene, with important consequences if it is not properly regulated. The CNIO group, therefore, wanted to study m
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Contact: Nuria Noriega
nnoriega@cnio.es
Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas (CNIO)
Source:Eurekalert  

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