Stem cell manipulation, gene therapy and the risk of cancer stem cell emergence

Flora Clément, Elodie Grockowiak, Florence Zylbersztejn, Gaëlle Fossard, Stéphanie Gobert, Véronique Maguer-Satta


Stem cells (SCs) have been extensively studied in the context of regenerative medicine. Human hematopoietic stem cell (HSC)-based therapies have been applied to treat leukemic patients for decades. Handling of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has also raised hopes and concerns in the field of tissue engineering. Lately, discovery of cell reprogramming by Yamanaka’s team has profoundly modified research strategies and approaches in this domain. As we gain further insight into cell fate mechanisms and identification of key actors and parameters, this also raises issues as to the manipulation of SCs. These include the engraftment of manipulated cells and the potential predisposition of those cells to develop cancer. As a unique and pioneer model, the use of HSCs to provide new perspectives in the field of regenerative and curative medicine will be reviewed. We will also discuss the potential use of various SCs from embryonic to adult stem cells (ASCs), including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as well as MSCs. Furthermore, to sensitize clinicians and researchers to unresolved issues in these new therapeutic approaches, we will highlight the risks associated with the manipulation of human SCs from embryonic or adult origins for each strategy presented.