Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) Xist has emerged as a key modulator in dosage compensation by randomly inactivating one of the X chromosomes in mammals during embryonic development. Dysregulation of X chromosome inactivation (XCI) due to deletion of Xist has been proven to induce hematologic cancer in mice. However, this phenomenon is not consistent in humans as growing evidence suggests Xist can suppress or promote cancer growth in different organs of the human body. In this review, we discuss recent advances of XCI in human embryonic stem cells and provide an explanation for the seemingly contradictory roles of Xist in development of human cancer.
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