The latest scientific discoveries have highlighted and clarified the biochemical mechanisms controlling cell proliferation and differentiation. While the four transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and cMyc have shown to be sufficient to induce pluripotency in fibroblasts, there has in addition a lot of research studying the mechanisms of cell differentiation and the specific properties of stem cells, in particular their plasticity and capacity for trans-differentiation.
These researches have been fundamental in the field of reparative, regenerative and transplant medicine. In fact the genetic engineering production of regulatory factors identified through such research, has allowed the production of new tissues and a new category of cell therapy products, in which the main biological action is carried out by cells or tissues, even if in the presence of organic or inorganic matrices or coatings. Examples of this type of product are in vitro cultivated skin, products made of cellular elements for the reconstruction of bones, cartilages, teeth, etc. Even more important is the fact that a very analytical and detailed characterization of stem cells allowed the comprehension of tumor cell behaviors, that have a crucial role in determining their malignancy.
The malignant behavior of cancer cells can be attributed to the presence of cells with characteristics similar to those of stem cells. As consequence cancer research have been conceived to identify the metabolic pathways common to tumor and stem cells. This will in turn cast light on which micro-environment factors can direct these pathways towards differentiation and induce tumor cells to behave less aggressively.
Recently there has been a lot of studies which were very important to understand the role of embryonic micro-environment in controlling tumor cell behavior and to revert cancer cells towards normal phenotypes. This research is now underway, and they represent the main subject of this website.