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Research area: cancer_biology

Hierarchical tissue organization as a general mechanism to limit the accumulation of somatic mutations

Created on 5th January 2017

Imre Derenyi; Gergely J Szollosi;

How can tissues generate large numbers of cells, yet keep the divisional load (the number of divisions along cell lineages) low in order to curtail the accumulation of somatic mutations and reduce the risk of cancer? To answer the question we consider a general model of hierarchically organized self-renewing tissues and show that the lifetime divisional load of such a tissue is independent of the details of the cell differentiation processes, and depends only on two structural and two dynamical parameters. Our results demonstrate that a strict analytical relationship exists between two seemingly disparate characteristics of self-renewing tissues: divisional load and tissue organization. Most remarkably, we find that a sufficient number of progressively slower dividing cell types can be almost as efficient in minimizing the divisional load, as non-renewing tissues. We argue that one of the main functions of tissue-specific stem cells and differentiation hierarchies is the prevention of cancer.

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