Stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in all microorganisms which have the ability to multiply to produce new stem cells or differentiate into mature cells or tissues. Researchers have identified the application of these stem cells in curing many life threatening diseases like cancer, HIV, diabetes and also explored its potentials in gene therapy. Cancer cells are cells that undergo uncontrolled mitosis leading to degeneration of a tissue or organ. These cells are similar to stem cells that both have the ability to multiply, but the latter one acquires self sufficiency and invasive metastatic abilities. Researchers believe that the cancer cells are derived from stem cells . A tumor has mature cancer cells as well as cancer stem cells having the inherent ability to proliferate indefinitely and initiate cancer. The discovery of cancer stem cells has greater implications on the early detection of diseases and effective treatment.
Stem cell research is on the track to identify the subset of cancer stem cells from the group of cancer cells and so that treatment can be targeted on these subsets. These cells have the potential to withstand traditional treatment modalities. Cancer stem cells are resistant to chemotherapy or radiation therapy and are able to repair the DNA damages caused by both. As the cancer stem cells survive, it can initiate recurrence of the disease. So cancer cell researches are now being focused on these undifferentiated stem cells, which pose more effects on human existence.
The cancer stem cells are difficult to be differentiated from other cancer cells. These cells are identified using the biomarkers such as marker proteins. The potential difficulty is that these marker proteins have a role in normal biological processes too. So as they share common pathways with normal cells, the stem cell therapy becomes more difficult. These common pathways have to be identified, isolated and characterized cancer stem cells and accordingly direct stem cell therapies
An effective cancer therapy is the one which will be targeting the cancer cells along with subset of cancer stem cells at the target-site as well as other distant sites to prevent metastatic spread. Stem cell cancer research should be focused to find the link between normal stem cells and cancer stem cells, which will open up a new beginning for cancer research itself.
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