Without 'yoga and chardonnay' leukemia stem cells are stressed to death
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IMAGE: Craig T. Jordan, Ph.D., and colleagues show that blocking the stress-relief of mitophagy kills leukemia stem cells without harming healthy blood stem cells. view more 

Credit: University of Colorado Cancer Center

Change is stressful. The change that a healthy blood stem cell undergoes to become a leukemia stem cell (LSC) is no exception – think of healthy blood stem cells as young professionals and the transformation into an LSC as having a child. Now these chronically frazzled LSCs need a special stress-relief technique above and beyond what they used to require. And the LSC equivalent of yoga and chardonnay is a process called mitophagy. LSCs desperately need mitophagy. Without it, they die.

A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published today in the journal Cell Stem Cell identifies an essential switch that LSCs use to activate mitophagy. Think of AMPK like a babysitter – without it, there is no yoga or chardonnay. When researchers turned off AMPK, it was as if they had cancelled the babysitter and there was no mitophagy. Thus, without AMPK allowing the stress release of mitophagy, LSCs were very literally stressed to death. This would be bad for young parents of small children. But

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