Microbiology: Altruistic defence

Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 09/2010; 467(7311):34-5. DOI: 10.1038/467034a
Source: PubMed


A charitable deed by a few cells in a bacterial culture can help the rest of that population survive in the presence of antibiotics. This finding can aid further research into a major problem in public health.

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Available from: Alexander van Oudenaarden
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    ABSTRACT: Stem cells are heterogeneous. How is the heterogeneity maintained in the microenvironment of oxidative stress, where p53 activity could threaten differentiation/apoptosis? Recent work on human embryonic stem cells (hESC) suggest that when exposed to extreme hypoxia/oxidative stress, a few stem cells from the heterogeneous population expand and exhibit reprogramming to higher state of stemness. This reprogramming state, termed, "enhanced stemness reprogramming," exhibit altruistic behavior. In this chapter, the concept and findings on altruistic stem cell phenotype is discussed. Subsequently, the potential hijacking of the altruistic stem cell mechanism by cancer stem cells and its implication in tumor progression and metastasis is discussed. Finally, a conceptual framework of an altruistic stem cell defense (ASD) system is proposed to explain how stem cells and cancer stem cells maintain heterogeneity during microenvironmental stress.
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