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Quest to make donor blood stem cells in the lab gets a boost

Memphis, Tennessee, April 10, 2017

Blood stem cells

St. Jude researchers used time-lapse images to investigate the origins of blood stem cells in models like the example above. The image was fluoresced in order to help identify the cells involved.

For patients with cancer and blood diseases, bone marrow transplantation can be life-saving. But a lack of blood stem cell donors remains a problem. Efforts to produce donor blood stem cells in the lab have so far failed. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists used a laboratory model to uncover clues that might help change that.

Blood-forming stem cells normally develop before birth. They are made from cells in the lining of blood vessels in the developing aorta. The process involved is not completely understood.

The researchers used strategies like time-lapse video to identify cells that communicate with the future blood stem cells and direct them to become blood. The cells involved migrate during development.

 Some give rise to different kinds of adult cells, including nerve cells. Some of the migrating cells settle in next to the future blood stem and help to launch them toward their fate.

“These results will likely fuel new types of research in stem cell biology and blood development,” said Wilson Clements, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Hematology. “The findings will also help ongoing efforts to make transplantable blood stem cells in the lab.”

The research appeared in Nature Cell Biology.

Read the news release.

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