Alterations in the molecular properties of neural stem cells from aged brains and brain tumors
Burhan, Özge Pelin
Adams, Michelle Marie
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It is known that new neuron formation in the brain continues throughout the life of an organism. In the adult human brain, it was proven that neurogenesis in the hippocampus is higher than expected, almost 700 new neurons are formed in a day. The formation of new neurons is supported by the stem cell subpopulation in the brain. With learning and the formation of new memories, the neuron production increases. However, changes in the cognitive abilities with advancing age are thought to be caused by the functional and molecular alterations in the stem cell populations. Molecular changes in neural stem cells throughout aging were found to be deterrents of the increased risk of cancer with age, such as tumor suppressor mechanisms. However, the activation and overlap of tumor suppressing mechanisms result in senescence in stem cells that have accumulated oncogenic mutations, which causes the stem cell pool exhaustion. It is thought that cancer cells acquire stem cell-like properties in order to have the unlimited proliferation and self-renewal properties, which are characteristics of both healthy and cancer stem cells. Neural cancer stem cells have the ability to produce glial and neural cells, like normal stem cells. The cancer stem cell subpopulations are implicated in the growth of tumor tissues. Hence, it is important to identify and characterize cancer stem cells and make a distinction between cancer and non-cancer stem cells. In this project, this issue was addressed by studying the marker expressions of brain tumor tissues obtained from humans, which confirmed that the cancer cells do express stem cell and progenitor cell markers, such as Sox2 and Vimentin. The presence of mature neurons was also established by the mature neuronal marker NeuN. In order to determine whether these stem cells may be different in young and old subjects, a study was also carried out in young and old zebrafish neural stem cells in order to identify the expression differences between the groups. The presence of proliferating stem cells and differentiated cells were identified in cell culture. This analysis of neural stem cells in old and young zebrafish revealed 18 differentially-expressed genes. The results indicated a higher differentiation rate in old zebrafish stem cells, which may be due to the increased loss of neural cells in the old zebrafish brain. The development of markers that could be widely used for the diagnosis of cancer and the identification of cell types is important. For reliable diagnosis and identification of cancer cells, multiple cellular markers are used. Hence the distinction of cell types based on light scattering differences would speed up the process of diagnosis, and the elimination of marker used for the distinction of cell types would be beneficial. The final project mentioned in this thesis involves the analysis of C6 (rat glioma) cell line for scattering properties and cell cycle arrest. A general method for definition of a scatter data interval for C6 cells in different stages was developed and can be applied to other cell types and diseases. These studies show that the proliferation and stem cell markers’ expressions differ between cancer and healthy stem cells, and the expression of neuroprotective genes is differentially upregulated in old zebrafish neural stem cells compared to the young. This data could contribute to the knowledge on normal and cancer stem cell expression differences, as well as how age affects the expression, and supply information required for the development of a cancer stem cell identification and targeting methods.