Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 24 May 2006
Vol. 2006, Issue 9, p. pe12
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2006.9.pe12]


Stem Cell Aging and Cancer

Jennifer Fuller

The author is in the Immunology Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA. E-mail: jen6598{at}

Key Words: stem cells • cancer stem cells • acute myeloid leukemia (AML) • breast cancer

Abstract: Stem cells are capable of self-renewal, differentiation into various lineages, and proliferation; thus, they play critical roles in the functioning and maintenance of many biological systems. However, these unique qualities of stem cells also make them more vulnerable to mutations as the organism ages. The biggest risk factor in cancer development is age, and most scientists believe that cancers partly result from a buildup of mutations in different cell types over time. This accumulation of mutations takes place over the course of a person's lifetime, during which repeated rounds of cell division result in editing errors in the DNA. Genetic alterations can cause changes in the signaling pathways controlling proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. In the case of stem cells, such mutations would be passed on to all of the stem cell's progeny, ultimately resulting in a pool of stem cells that feeds neoplastic formation. Studies aiming to identify and characterize these putative cancer stem cells and to understand how they arise will shed light on the process of stem cell aging and its role in cancer.

Citation: J. Fuller, Stem Cell Aging and Cancer. Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ. 2006 (9), pe12 (2006).

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Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150