'Big data' helps to discover key factors driving blood cell specification

February 25, 2016

New research led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, alongside teams from the universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester, has identified key factors that drive blood cell development by recapitulating this process in a culture dish. Cells with the ability to give rise to blood are normally specified in the early embryo over a number of developmental stages and eventually form blood stem cells that are maintained for life and generate trillions of blood cells every day.

By studying six consecutive stages of development and adopting a 'big data' approach using computational analyses, the consortium, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, studied the behaviour of thousands of genes and the factors that regulate them.

Their findings, published in Developmental Cell, identified previous unknown regulators of blood cell development, significantly furthering our knowledge of this process. They also explained how regulatory elements in the DNA work together, driving gene expression and the switch of one developmental stage to another.

These data also revealed the minimum requirements for generating blood cells from an unrelated, cultured cell type, a method that is vital for the generation of patient-specific blood cells for regenerative medicine. To reach out to the scientific community and the interested public, group generated a website that allows unlimited data access.

The team believes that improved understanding of the key genes that drive the specification of blood cells and how they interact with each other will help to generate the stem cells that could be used to help patients suffering from blood disorders, such as myeloid leukaemia.

Professor Constanze Bonifer from the University of Birmingham explained, "We examined how develop towards by collecting "multi-omics" data from measuring gene activity, changes in chromosome structure and the interaction of regulatory factors with the genes themselves. Our research shows in unprecedented detail how a vast network of interacting genes control blood . It also shows how we can use such data to enhance our knowledge of this process"

Explore further: Newly identified genes impact how transplanted stem cells give rise to blood cells

Related Stories

A Prkci gene keeps stem cells in check

October 31, 2015

When it comes to stem cells, too much of a good thing isn't wonderful: producing too many new stem cells may lead to cancer; producing too few inhibits the repair and maintenance of the body.

Role model stem cells: How immune cells can self-renew

January 21, 2016

When our organs age or wear out, their renewal usually depends on a few stem cells in the tissue, because the vast majority of differentiated cells have lost their ability to divide and generate new cells. A German-French ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find new way to attack gastro bug

October 21, 2016

A team at Griffith's Institute for Glycomics identified a unique sensory structure that is able to bind host-specific sugar and is present on particularly virulent strains of Campylobacter jejuni.

A moving story of FHL2 and forces

October 21, 2016

Researchers from the Mechanobiology Institute (MBI) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have revealed the molecular events leading to the regulation of cell growth and proliferation in response to stiffness of the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.