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Stochastic dynamics and the evolution of mutations in stem cells

David Dingli12* and Jorge M Pacheco34

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Hematology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA

2 Department of Molecular Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA

3 Departamento de Matematica e Aplicações, Universidade do Minho, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal

4 ATP-Group, Centro de Matemática e Aplicações Fundamentais, Complexo Interdisciplinar, 1649-003 Lisboa codex, Portugal

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BMC Biology 2011, 9:41  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-9-41

Published: 7 June 2011

Abstract

Stem cells are the target of mutations that can lead to life threatening diseases. However, stem cell populations tend to be small and therefore clonal expansion of mutant cells is highly sensitive to stochastic fluctuations. The evolutionary dynamics of mutations in these cells is discussed, taking into consideration the impact of such mutations on the reproductive fitness of cells. We show how stochastic effects can explain clinical observations, including extinction of acquired clonal stem cell disorders.