A new understanding of the molecular makeup of brain cells may help explain how injury may contribute to the development of a relatively rare but often aggressive form of brain tumor called a glioma, according to a group of medical researchers at the University of College of London Cancer Institute, UCL Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and UCL Institute of Health Informatics, along with external collaborators from Imperial College London.
What to Know
Gliomas are a type of brain tumor that typically develop in neural stem cells.
Astrocytes are more mature types of brain cells that have been considered less likely to give rise to tumors , but after an injury, astrocytes can behave like neural stem cells and are more likely to initiate a cancer.
Normal tissues carry many genetic mutations that seem to have no major effects until an injury occurs. Injuries can trigger inflammation that may change the behavior of cells, making them more likely to become cancerous later in life.
In a young brain, basal inflammation is low, so mutations seem to be kept in check even after a serious brain injury, but as inflammation increases throughout the brain during aging, it is amplified at the site of the earlier injury.
While the risk of developing brain cancer is less than 1% over a lifetime, patients who experienced a head injury were nearly four times more likely to develop a brain cancer later in life.
This is a summary of the article, “Injury Primes Mutation-Bearing Astrocytes for Dedifferentiation in Later Life,” published on February 24, 2023. The full article can be found on bjsm.bmj.com.
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