Just as a single forest can contain many ecological niches, the body also has microenvironments that can support and sustain stem cells. Although scientists are starting to understand the influence of cellular microenvironments on normal development, they know much less about how these microenvironments support cancer.
Now, a paper in the 16 June 2005 issue of Nature (Vol. 435, No. 7044, pp. 969-973) from Dorothy Sipkins and her colleagues sheds light on how a specialized region of blood vessels can sustain malignant metastasis in the bone marrow.
The researchers examined physiological niches inside mouse bone marrow, a common site for the spread of solid tumours. The scientists found that certain types of microenvironments containing specific molecular signals attracted leukaemic cells as well as purified blood stem cells. The authors suggest that cancer cells can co-opt the tissue-homing system normally used by white blood cells.
Dorothy Sipkins (Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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