Research Seminar Annelies Wouters
Feb 03, 2017 16.00 uur - 18.00 uur
Lokaal Campus Diepenbeek - Auditorium H1
Estimates about environmental factors causing cancer are on the rise, making research on what induces or counteracts carcinogenesis highly relevant at the present time. Although much is known on how chemical compounds induce cancer, we know little on how to turn it off. Regenerative tissues hold valuable information; they are able switch off cellular growth. It remains to be elucidated whether this is underlying to the observation that regenerating tissues, organs and animals have a much lower vulnerability to chemically-induced carcinogenesis compared to other tissues.
The regenerative organism Schmidtea mediterranea offers a unique model to study this hypothesis because of its complete body regeneration and rare appearance of tumors, even when exposed to carcinogenic compounds. Its regenerative capacities originate from a large pool of highly potent stem cells which can divide and give rise to any type of body cell. These stem cell processes are meticulously regulated by signals originating from the stem cell microenvironment to avoid uncontrolled division and tumor formation.
We found that S. mediterranea’s stem cell system was affected by genotoxic exposure, similar to any other cell or tissue. Its responses upon the induced DNA damage, however, differed depending on stem cell subtype and microenvironment. In general, DNA repair capacity was stronger in the more potent stem cells, and when signals in microenvironment stimulate cell proliferation. The importance of the microenvironment in evading tumorigenic growth was confirmed by knocking down components of the extracellular matrix. In the future, further characterization will indicate how the interaction between stem cell and their microenvironment can lead to bypassing carcinogenic processes.