Wnt signaling – A pathway for cancer research

By Taha Ali Khan

Wnt signaling performs one of the most important functions in regulating complex biological processes. Their biological functions are very vast and largely misunderstood. After many years of comprehensive studies, it is being found that Wnt signals exert their functions on both cellular and organismal level. At the cellular level Wnt proteins play a critical role in patterning of the entire body plan by providing cells with positional information and at the organism level, Wnt signals help to regulate stem cell behavior, tissue homeostasis and help in the generation of cells and tissue. Wnts are known as morphogen due to their clear function in tissue functioning and cell fate. It is being observed that the mammalian genome contains at least 19 distinct Wnt genes. Wnt proteins are present on the cell surface and the extracellular matrix and they are highly hydrophobic and not soluble to water thus only have a signaling range to short distances. Due to this peculiar property Wnt liposomes (except for Drosophila WntD) are prepared to study these molecules. Disruption of self-regulation pathways during diseases of abnormal cellular growth such as cancer can lead to the mutation in the Wnt pathway. Further extensive research will be required to learn and explore the complete function of Wnt signaling and how can we potentially use it for our benefit.

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