Our soma is destined to perish eventually. Only our germ cells have the potential to replicate our genome "indefinitely", and pass it on to future generations. A somatic cell that acquires this potential is called a cancer cell. Indeed Jan Willem Bruggeman and colleagues found that tumors express hundreds of genes that are usually only found in developing germ cells. Because germ cell specific genes do not express in healthy somatic cells, this study provides handles for developing anticancer therapies with limited side effects. Our next step is to find out how these germ cell genes contribute to cancer development.
Jan Willem Bruggeman is a MD/PhD candidate at the fertility laboratory with dr. Geert Hamer and prof. dr. Ans van Pelt.