Induction of iPS Cells and of Cancer Stem Cells: The Stem Cell or Reprogramming Hypothesis of Cancer?


  • James E. Trosko

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pediatrics/Human Development, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
    • Correspondence to: James E. Trosko, PhD, Department of Pediatrics/Human Development, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. E-mail:

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This article as designed to examine whether the “stoichiometric” or “elite models” of the origin of the “induced pluripotent stem” (iPS) cells fits some experiment facts from the developmental biology of adult stem cells and from the field of cancer research. In brief, since the evidence presented to support the stoichiometric model failed to recognize the factual existence of adult organ specific stem cells, the model has not been rigorously tested. In addition, the demonstration of a subset of cells (MUSE cells) in normal primary in vitro cultures of human fibroblasts (the usual source of iPS cells) seems to be the origin of the iPS cells. Moreover, from the field of carcinogenesis, the “stem cell” versus “de-differentiation” or “reprogramming” hypotheses were examined. Again, using the role of glycolysis, known to be associated with the Warburg effect in cancer cells, a list of experiments showing that (a) normal stem cells, which have few mitochondria, metabolize via glycolysis; (b) the stem cells are targets for “initiation” or “immortalization” or the blockage of differentiation and apoptosis of the stem cells by “immortalizing viruses”; (c) Lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA), when expressed, is associated with glycolysis and therefore, must be expressed in normal adult stem cells, as well as in cancer cells; and (d) p53, depleted or rendered dysfunctional by SV40 Large T antigen, is associated with the reduction of mitochondrial function and mass and is associated with the Warburg effect. Together, these observations from the iPS and “cancer stem cell” fields support the idea that both iPS cells and cancer stem cell are derived from adult organ-specific stem cells that do not restore or switch their metabolism of glucose from oxidative metabolism to glycolysis but, rather, in both cases, the adult stem cell, which metabolizes by glycolysis, is prevented from differentiation or from metabolizing by oxidative phosphorylation. Anat Rec, 297:161–173. 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.