Energy metabolism and metabolic sensors in stem cells: the metabostem crossroads of aging and cancer.

Advances in experimental medicine and biology

PubMedID: 25038997

Menendez JA, Joven J. Energy metabolism and metabolic sensors in stem cells: the metabostem crossroads of aging and cancer. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;824117-40.
We are as old as our adult stem cells are; therefore, stem cell exhaustion is considered a hallmark of aging. Our tumors are as aggressive as the number of cancer stem cells (CSCs) they bear because CSCs can survive treatments with hormones, radiation, chemotherapy, and molecularly targeted drugs, thus increasing the difficulty of curing cancer. Not surprisingly, interest in stem cell research has never been greater among members of the public, politicians, and scientists. But how can we slow the rate at which our adult stem cells decline over our lifetime, reducing the regenerative potential of tissues, while efficiently eliminating the aberrant, life-threatening activity of "selfish", immortal, and migrating CSCs? Frustrated by the gene-centric limitations of conventional approaches to aging diseases, our group and other groups have begun to appreciate that bioenergetic metabolism, i.e., the production of fuel & building blocks for growth and division, and autophagy/mitophagy, i.e., the quality-control, self-cannibalistic system responsible for "cleaning house" and "recycling the trash", can govern the genetic and epigenetic networks that facilitate stem cell behaviors. Indeed, it is reasonable to suggest the existence of a "metabostem" infrastructure that operates as a shared hallmark of aging and cancer, thus making it physiologically plausible to maintain or even increase the functionality of adult stem cells while reducing the incidence of cancer and extending the lifespan. This "metabostemness" property could lead to the discovery of new drugs that reprogram cell metabotypes to increase the structural and functional integrity of adult stem cells and positively influence their lineage determination, while preventing the development and aberrant function of stem cells in cancer tissues. While it is obvious that the antifungal antibiotic rapamycin, the polyphenol resveratrol, and the biguanide metformin already belong to this new family of metabostemness-targeting drugs, we can expect a rapid identification of new drug candidates (e.g., polyphenolic xenohormetins) that reverse or postpone "geroncogenesis", i.e., aging-induced metabolic decline as a driver of tumorigenesis, at the stem cell level.