Study shows that blood stem cells are influenced by their offspring

Nov 29, 2010
Dr. Carolyn de Graaf, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, has shown that mature blood cells can communicate with, and influence the behavior of, their stem cell "parents." Credit: Cameron Wells, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

A new study by researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, has shown that mature blood cells can communicate with, and influence the behaviour of, their stem cell 'parents'.

The discovery of a blood cell 'feedback loop' in the body opens up new avenues of research into diseases caused by stem cell disorders, and the potential for new disease treatments.

Dr Carolyn de Graaf and Professor Doug Hilton from the Molecular Medicine division and Professor Warren Alexander from the Cancer and Haematology division led the research.

Professor Hilton said the findings, published today in the , revealed a relationship between the blood cells that wasn't known to exist until now.

"We know that blood give rise to all the mature blood cells, but the standard assumption was that external factors control blood cell production and the two populations exist in isolation," Professor Hilton said.

"This study shows that the actually communicate back to the stem cells, changing their gene expression and influencing their behaviour."

The researchers found that blood cell disorders can cause disturbances in the feedback loop, with profound effects on the blood stem cells.

The discovery was made while studying the effect of the loss of Myb, a transcription factor that represses platelet production, in animal models.

Dr de Graaf said the loss of the Myb gene meant the animals had very high numbers of platelets in their blood, which caused changes in the signaling pathways that control stem cell maintenance.

"The stem cells, rather than being maintained in a 'resting state' until needed, were being told to continually cycle and produce mature blood cells," Dr de Graaf said. "The stem cells were eventually exhausted and blood disorders developed because there were not enough stem cells to produce new red and ."

The team used new generation genomic technologies to identify gene signatures in the blood stem cells that were caused by the defective signaling, these gene signatures could be used in the future to diagnose and help treat disease.

"If we can understand the genes important for stem cell maintenance and blood cell production, then we can start to look at ways of improving transplantation techniques and therapies for blood disorders," Dr de Graaf said.

Professor Hilton said that patients with stem cell failures could also potentially benefit.

"What we would like to do is to determine whether some of these stem cell failures are due to miscommunication between mature and stem cells, with the possibility of finding new ways to treat these disorders down the track," he said.

Explore further: DNA may have had humble beginnings as nutrient carrier

Provided by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

4.7 /5 (3 votes)

Related Stories

Molecule dictates how stem cells travel

Jan 14, 2006

U.S. researchers have defined a molecule that dictates how blood stem cells travel to the bone marrow and establish blood and immune cell production.

Protein key to control, growth of blood cells

Aug 13, 2008

New research sheds light on the biological events by which stem cells in the bone marrow develop into the broad variety of cells that circulate in the blood. The findings may help improve the success of bone marrow transplants ...

Recommended for you

Research helps identify memory molecules

12 hours ago

A newly discovered method of identifying the creation of proteins in the body could lead to new insights into how learning and memories are impaired in Alzheimer's disease.

Computer simulations visualize ion flux

13 hours ago

Ion channels are involved in many physiological and pathophysiological processes throughout the human body. A young team of researchers led by pharmacologist Anna Stary-Weinzinger from the Department of Pharmacology ...

Neutron diffraction sheds light on photosynthesis

13 hours ago

Scientists from ILL and CEA-Grenoble have improved our understanding of the way plants evolved to take advantage of sunlight. Using cold neutron diffraction, they analysed the structure of thylakoid lipids found in plant ...

DNA may have had humble beginnings as nutrient carrier

Sep 01, 2014

New research intriguingly suggests that DNA, the genetic information carrier for humans and other complex life, might have had a rather humbler origin. In some microbes, a study shows, DNA pulls double duty ...

Central biobank for drug research

Sep 01, 2014

For the development of new drugs it is crucial to work with stem cells, as these allow scientists to study the effects of new active pharmaceutical ingredients. But it has always been difficult to derive ...

User comments : 0