New method to boost supply of life-saving stem cells

December 08, 2020

Researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona and Columbia University in New York City have identified a protein that is critical for the expansion of typically scarce, life-saving blood stem cells.

The discovery may lead to new methods for growing a large quantity of these stem cells, both inside and outside the human body, currently one of the greatest limitations for their use in a variety of medical procedures, from treatment of blood cancers to inherited blood disorders that require a bone marrow transplantation. The findings are published today in the journal Cell Reports.

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are responsible for the constant renewal of blood, producing billions of new cells every day. HSCs have unlimited potential to renew themselves for the entire lifespan of an organism, giving rise to every type of blood cell, including the cells that make up our immune systems.

HSCs have great potential in treating incurable cancers, autoimmune diseases and inherited blood disorders. However, just 1 in 2500 cells in the blood marrow are HSCs, a scarcity that limits their use in medical procedures.

One way of obtaining more HSCs is by expanding the existing number found in the bone marrow, circulating blood or cord blood. A second way is by reprogramming other blood stem cells so that they acquire some of the self-renewing characteristics typical of HSCs.

The authors of the study used an algorithm called VIPER to identify proteins capable of reprograming other blood stem cells. Out of eight potential candidates identified by the algorithm, just one - a gene known as BAZ2B - was able to significantly expand the number of HSCs in blood from the umbilical cord.

BAZ2B was able to reprogram blood stem cells to an HSC-like state by rearranging their chromatin, opening up unique regions in the genome that were previously inaccessible. The resulting cells successfully transplanted into the bone marrow of immunocompromised mice, renewing the growth of the tissue.

"The scarcity of hematopoietic stem cells is one of the biggest barriers to the development of new and improved treatments. Our findings are exciting because we have found a way of boosting their numbers after activating just one factor" says ICREA Research Professor Pia Cosma, Group Leader at the CRG and one of the authors of the study. "Yielding more of these live-saving stem cells will benefit a variety of different patients in the long-term."

According to Andea Califano, Clyde and Helen Wu Professor of Chemical and Systems Biology at Columbia University Medical Center, "It is really exciting to see that the methodologies we have developed to discover the proteins that implement and maintain the malignant state of cancer cells can also be used to identify key players in normal human physiology, including proteins that can help fight other diseases. Remarkably, the proteins that are best suited to the VIPER methodology are exactly those that control human developmental processes, such as blood differentiation and regeneration, thus opening up new exciting avenues in regenerative medicine."
-end-


Center for Genomic Regulation

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.