Sasha Bakhru Discusses Cancer Stem Cells

Mutations in a cell can cause it to become cancerous, so why couldn’t the same principles help kill cancer cells? Cells are remarkable objects that are capable of developing into just about anything the body needs. What we commonly call stem cells are like blank slates, or LEGO bricks.

The cells in our body have internal controls that usually prevent uncontrolled changes to occur. Thus the mutation typically occurs in those genes. Without a method to stop the cancer from forming, the cells quickly take over and the tumor grows. The cancerous cells have unstable genomes, which will cause the differences in each cell. This makes targeting cancer cells individually a difficult process with standard medications, which is why the shotgun approach is often used when treating cancer.

Most cancer cells also proliferate quickly, so quickly in fact that just one cell can cause cancer. The theory behind using stem cells to treat cancer is to kill the cancer cells from the inside. With stem cells, medical scientists can plant a cell whose outcome is already determined, thus stopping the feed of cancerous cells.

The trouble is volume. At this point the demand far outweighs the supply so treatments are not yet mainstream. Stem cells taken from the same body rarely help cure that body, and there are not enough volunteers and organs to go around. In the future, medical scientists hope to engineer stem cells on demand, but we are still a long way off. For now, Stem cells are the dream treatment for cancer as they heal the body from within rather than decimating the disease.

Bio: The preceding post was written on behalf of Sasha Bakhru, a leading biomedical researcher. Sasha Bakhru is currently working on a method to engineer tissues from stem cells.