Fascinating news released in EurekAlert! reports that Dana-Farber Cancer Institute research scientists have discovered that adult tissues retain a memory, inscribed in their DNA, of the embryonic cells from which they arose. Even more intriguing—the memory is fully retrievable in that under certain conditions, cells can play the story of their development in reverse to switch on genes that were active in the fetal state. The exciting findings were published by the Journal Molecular Cell and overturn the prevailing scientific assumption that adult tissues bear little trace of their embryonic origins.
This discovery may be especially relevant to the field of regenerative medicine, because it suggests cells from patients may be coaxed into an earlier stage of development and then allowed to mature into adult tissues that can be used to replace diseased or failing organs. This holds considerable promise for cancer research—especially on the ability of cancer cells to activate long-unused genes to help them spread throughout the body.
Ramesh Shivdasani, MD, PhD