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Yonsei Med J. 2010 Sep;51(5):622-32. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2010.51.5.622.

MicroRNAs in human embryonic and cancer stem cells.

Author information

  • 1Human Anatomy and Embryology Unit, Molecular Oncology and Embryology Laboratory, School of Medicine, University of Barcelona, IDIBAPS, Barcelona, Spain.

Abstract

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate messenger RNAs at the post-transcriptional level. They play an important role in the control of cell physiological functions, and their alterations have been related to cancer, where they can function as oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes. Recently, they have emerged as key regulators of "stemness", collaborating in the maintenance of pluripotency, control of self-renewal, and differentiation of stem cells. The miRNA pathway has been shown to be crucial in embryonic development and in embryonic stem (ES) cells, as shown by Dicer knockout analysis. Specific patterns of miRNAs have been reported to be expressed only in ES cells and in early phases of embryonic development. Moreover, many cancers present small populations of cells with stem cell characteristics, called cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs are responsible for relapse and treatment failure in many cancer patients, and the comparative analysis of expression patterns between ES cells and tumors can lead to the identification of a miRNA signature to define CSCs. Most of the key miRNAs identified to date in ES cells have been shown to play a role in tumor diagnosis or prognosis, and may well prove to be essential in cancer therapy in the foreseeable future.

PMID:
20635434
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2908867
Free PMC Article
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