How Stem Cell Behavior Is Enhancing Cancer Research

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We most often think of stem cell research in terms of how we might use various kinds of stem cells to heal a range of diseases and injuries. But that’s not the only way to look at those curious cells that form the foundation of all human tissue growth. Researchers also look at how stem cells behave so they can learn how to kill them. Why would you want to kill stem cells? Because it’s one way to treat cancer.

Current cancer treatments based on chemotherapy and radiation target mature cancer cells as well as their stem cell progenitors. By wiping out cancer stem cells, doctors hope to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the body. But there is a problem: cancer stem cells are very good at adapting to radiation and chemotherapy. Their secret is a natural ability to slip in between dormant and proliferative states.

Cancer’s Natural Defense System

This ability to transition between two states is likely a natural defense system programmed into cancer cells. It allows the cells to develop resistance to certain kinds of treatments. This natural defense system also explains why cancer can go into remission at some point, only to reappear more aggressively at a future date.

Scientists at the University of Michigan decided they wanted to figure out a way to defeat cancer’s natural defense system at the cellular level. But rather than look for new drugs that simply kill cancer cells, they went after the cells’ natural metabolic processes instead.

In so doing, they have discovered a way to use cell metabolism against cancer cells. It’s based on how cells utilize oxygen and glucose as energy sources. It turns out that cancer stem cells derive energy from oxygen as they reproduce but depend on glucose when dormant.

Deprive the Cells of Both

Using the metabolic process against cancer stem cells dictated depriving those cells of oxygen and glucose at the right times. To do so, the researchers used a drug already known to block mitochondria. This allowed them to manipulate glucose in such a way as to kill the cancer cells by starving them to death. They were also able to kill dormant cancer stem cells by depriving them of oxygen.

The breakthrough is nothing short of miraculous. Being able to kill cancer cells regardless of the state they are in implies future cancer treatments that could make the idea of remission obsolete. Instead, doctors and patients would be looking at a complete and total cure.

The Amazing Potential of Stem Cells

Stem cell research still has a long way to go in the fight to eradicate cancer. But ongoing studies show promising results. And while the world waits for a cancer cure, the research demonstrates the amazing potential of stem cells for healing a wide range of diseases.

Apex Biologix, a Utah supplier of PRP kits, and highly specialized centrifuges for regenerative medicine, says that this amazing potential is that which motivates so many doctors and clinics to offer regenerative medicine therapies to their patients. With each passing quarter, evidence is mounting in support of stem cell therapies for treating everything from osteoarthritis to heart disease to multiple forms of cancer.

Apex acknowledges that, for now, practical applications involving stem cell therapies are limited. But they are confident research will change that. It’s hard to argue the point. We already know that stem cells are the building blocks of human tissue, so it seems only a matter of time before we learn how to harness them to our own healing advantage.