`Stem cell gene linked to cancer`

Washington: Scientists have found a
mutation in stem cell genes, which they claim could be linked to development of leukaemia and other cancers.

An international team, led by Peter Papathanasiou of
The Australian National University, has completed a three-year
screening project to find the genes that control development
and turnover of stem cells.

Stem cells can grow into any other kind of cell
in the body, making them a hot area of research to find new
treatments for diseases and injuries.

In fact, a major finding of the new study is the
discovery of a novel DNA mutation in the c-Myb gene which has
been previously linked to a number of different cancer types,
the `Blood` journal reported.

"We`ve shown that blood stem cells with this genetic
mutation behave the same way as those present in human bone
marrow diseases, including diseases that can evolve into
leukaemia," said Dr Papathanasiou.

Added team member Prof Andrew Perkins from Queensland
University: "By understanding more about the genetic blueprint
of these kinds of disorders, we can start to develop new ways
of targeting diseases. Currently, there is no treatment for
this group of blood diseases, but discovery of this mutation
provides new avenues for investigation."

As a result of the screening project, the scientists
have also identified five other abnormal blood stem cell
profiles, adding to understanding of the genetic diversity of
blood cells. It has also led to a better understanding of how
blood cells develop and how this process becomes corrupted.

"Given that the same genes that operate in stem cells
also function in cancer cells albeit with genetic mutation
this research also has potential implications for regenerative
medicine, by understanding how to stimulate the growth of new
blood cells," Dr Papathanasiou said.


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