Perhaps in the not-too-distant future people who need “to rebuild” their prostate will be able to do so using stem cells removed from prostate tissue. This week Nature magazine reported that a group of Genetech researchers in San Francisco has isolated stem cells extracted from prostate tissue of an adult mouse and used them to generate new prostate cells in the same rat. Wei-Qiang Gao, the coordinator of the study, described the factors that made these cells, which are able to regenerate on a long term basis.
In the same study, researchers reported that they were able to identify a certain number of cell surface markers able to identify the cells that are candidates to become prostate stem cells. These markers seem to function also for other types of stem cells. These markers include CD117, a specific marker used to identify a rare population of adult mouse stem cells that scientists have isolated, and with in vivo transplants, have used them to generate a new prostate. The discovery opens up new prospects for those who have had operations for prostate cancer, since they now may be able to generate a new prostate using their own stem cells.
This is an “extremely interesting study for biologists, which will allow for the testing of new drugs, and studies on genetic alterations connected to tumors.” Ruggero De Maria, director of the Department of Hematology, Oncology, and Molecular Medicine of the Superior Health Institute, commenting on the creation of a new prostate thanks to a single stem cell, in experimental results obtained by Genetech researchers Inc in San Francisco and described in ‘Nature’ magazine said: “A similar study was done on the breast, which has important implications for molecular biology, while for regenerative medicine the prospects are also interesting, but not right around the corner.”
She explained the immediate consequences are not to create a new prostate in humans. Instead, scientists will now have the possibility of testing drugs on models of the human prostate (today transgenic mice are used) or trying to better understand the origin of tumors. “In the future we will be able to study rebuilding a prostate, which has been partially removed, or resolve incontinence problems in patients who underwent operations. The most immediate repercussions of the U.S. study is not regenerative medicine.”