New Stem Cells in the Spine Could Lead to New Cancer Treatments
Scientists have recently discovered a previously unknown type of stem cell in the spine, which they believe may play a pivotal role in the spread of cancer to bone. This discovery may help shed light on why spine metastasis, the spread of cancer to the spine, is much more frequent than to other bones in the body, and open up new opportunities for cancer treatments, spine fusion surgery, and osteoporosis management.
In a study published in Nature, researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York reported the discovery of vertebral skeletal stem cells in the spine. These cells, responsible for bone formation in the vertebrae, produce a protein that acts as a “come here” signal to tumor cells, suggesting new possibilities for cancer treatment.
To demonstrate the crucial role of vertebral skeletal stem cells, researchers deleted a specific bone-forming gene from the cells in mice, resulting in clear spinal defects. They further transplanted these stem cells into the leg muscle of a mouse, where they were able to generate new miniature bones and produce all types of skeletal cells found in the spine. Additionally, these stem cells were discovered in small pieces of human vertebrae removed during surgery.
The discovery is significant as it could potentially change the course of cancer care, as well as provide insight into osteoporosis and spine fusion surgery. The researchers believe there is still more to uncover and are currently exploring the potential of a second type of vertebral skeletal stem cell. This groundbreaking progression may offer new hope for cancer patients battling spine metastasis and have far-reaching implications for improving treatment outcomes.