Squamous cell cancers, which can occur in multiple organs in the body, can originate from hair follicle stem cells, a finding that could result in new strategies to treat and potentially prevent the disease, according to a study by researchers with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

Researchers also found that the progeny of those cells, although just a few divisions away from the mother hair follicle stem cells, were not capable of forming squamous cell cancers. Further studying why those progeny, called transit amplifying cells, can’t develop cancer could provide vital clues to how squamous cell cancers originate, said William Lowry, an assistant professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology in Life Sciences and senior author of the study.

The study, conducted in mouse models, appears April 18, 2011 in the early online edition of the peer-reviewed journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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