Immortality improves cell reprogramming

p53Specialized adult cells made 'immortal' through the blockade of an antitumour pathway can be turned into stem-like cells quickly and efficiently.

The findings — which should make it easier to generate patient-specific cells from any tissue type, including certain diseased cells that have proved difficult to transform — suggest that cellular reprogramming and cancer formation are inextricably linked.

The studies also shed light on the mechanism of tumour formation, says study author Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a developmental biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and at the Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona, Spain. Because it's now clear that p53 has a key role in both nuclear reprogramming and cancer development, Izpisúa Belmonte says, tumours can be thought of as cells that acquire more and more stem-cell-like characteristics — such as the ability to keep reproducing themselves forever. "If you connect the dots, you can say that cancer is really a de-differentiation problem," he says.


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