Hair Follicle Stem Cells Could Cause Squamous Cell Cancers – A Study!

310px-Hair_follicle-en.svgA team of scientists headed by William Lowry, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have found through a study that stem cells in hair follicles can cause squamous cell cancer which can affect several organs of the body.

Squamous cell cancer falls under the category of non-melanoma skin cancer. In this cancer, flat, thin squamous cells are affected which are found on the superficial layers of skin, passages of digestive and respiratory tracts and form the cell lining of hollow organs. Squamous cell cancers can occur in the lungs, mouth, skin, esophagus, lips, bladder, cervix, prostate, vagina and anus.

Interestingly, it was found that though the mother stem cells in hair follicles could develop cancer, their progeny cells known as transit amplifying cells were not able to form squamous cell cancer.

Through this study, the team aimed to find out which cells of skin gave rise to squamous cancer. Moreover, they wanted to see if the skin stem cells can develop cancers more easily than non-stem cells according to Andrew White, the first author of the study.

The study was conducted on mice divided into two groups. Both the mice groups were given genetic hits after adding a cancer causing oncogene and removing a cancer (tumor) suppressing gene. The hits were aimed at the transit amplifying cells and follicle stem cells i.e. progeny cells and mother cells.

It was observed that, the mice population that got hit in the follicle stem cells developed squamous cell cancer whereas the one that received the hit in transit amplifying cells did not develop cancer.

Further studies will be aimed at determining the events that occur once the cancer causing oncogene gets delivered to the cells.

According to Lowry, cancer therapies specifically aimed at initial stages of tumor development should be established rather than after the disease has reached a significant stage.

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