For the last century or so, the mature, differentiated cells throughout the body have been regarded as largely inert with respect to their regenerative potential, yet recent research shows that they can become progenitor-like and re-enter the cell cycle. Indeed, we recently proposed that mature cells can become regenerative via a conserved set of molecular mechanisms (‘paligenosis’), suggesting that a program for regeneration exists alongside programs for death (apoptosis) and division (mitosis). In two Reviews describing how emerging concepts of cellular plasticity are changing how the field views regeneration and tumorigenesis, we present the commonalities in the molecular and cellular features of plasticity at homeostasis and in response to injury in multiple organs. Here, in part 1, we discuss these advances in the stomach and pancreas. Understanding the extent of cell plasticity and uncovering its underlying mechanisms may help us refine important theories about the origin and progression of cancer, such as the cancer stem cell model, as well as the multi-hit model of tumorigenesis. Ultimately, we hope that the new concepts and perspectives on inherent cellular programs for regeneration and plasticity may open novel avenues for treating or preventing cancers.
- Stem cells