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The MIT Stem Cell Initiative studies fundamental biological questions about both normal adult stem cells and cancer stem cells. More specifically, Initiative researchers seek to identify the stem cells and cancer stem cells for different organs, establish the biological characteristics and gene regulatory programs essential for their “stemness,” and understand similarities and differences in stemness programs across different organs.
Given the key role they play in tissue maintenance and regeneration, normal stem cells hold great promise for use in repairing damaged tissues. Cancer stem cells, correspondingly, are the lifeblood of tumors. Although rare within tumors, they are particularly important because they possess the ability to create tumors and are also chemotherapy-resistant. As a result, cancer stem cells are thought to be responsible for tumor recurrence after remission, and also for the formation of metastases, which account for the majority of cancer-associated deaths. Accordingly, an anti-cancer stem cell therapy that can target and kill cancer stem cells is one of the holy grails of cancer treatment—a means to suppress both tumor recurrence and metastatic disease.
Current Stem Cell Initiative Investigators include:
Jacqueline Lees, PhD, Director
Alex Shalek, PhD
Robert Weinberg, PhD
Ömer Yilmaz, MD, PhD