Researchers decipher blood stem cell attachment, communication

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have deciphered a key sequence of events governing whether the stem cells that produce red and white blood cells remain anchored to the bone marrow, or migrate into the circulatory system.

An understanding of the factors that govern migration of blood stem cells might lead to improved treatment of leukemia, a cancer that affects circulating white blood cells. The findings also have implications for culturing infection-fighting immune cells outside the body, where they could be temporarily held in storage during chemotherapy and other treatments which suppress the immune system. Moreover, the findings could contribute to a strategy for growing large quantities of red blood cells in laboratory dishes outside the body, to reduce the need for blood donations.

Previously, researchers thought that the cellular environment in which the stem cells reside produced the chemical signals that determined whether the cells would be stationary or free–floating. The current study provides evidence that the stem cells produce chemical signals of their own that may, in turn, influence the chemical signals they receive from their environment.

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