Mutation on a single stem cell spurs growth of fibroid uterine tumors

Scientists have finally pinpointed the molecular cause of a painful and often devastating condition that affects 60 percent of women by the age of 45. Researchers at Northwestern University discovered fibroid uterine tumors, which can cause irregular bleeding, anemia and infertility, are triggered by a single stem cell that develops a mutation starts to grow uncontrollably and activates other cells to do the same. The stem that initiates the tumor carries a mutation called MED12, which has been found in the majority of uterine fibroid tissues. Once initiated the tumors continue to grow in response to steroid tumors. “No one knew how these came about before,” Serdar Bulun, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said. “The stem cells make up only 1.5 percent of the cells in the tumor, yet they are the essential drivers of its growth.” Understanding this process could lead scientists to develop new therapies, Bulun said.

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