Gene Holds Key to Blood Stem Cells

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Thursday, July 26, 2007; 12:00 AM

THURSDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- A gene namedSox17appears to regulate the development of blood-forming stem cells in fetal mice, new research shows.

In fact, fetal mice who could not produce their own blood cells did just that after they were given cells that containedSox17, say researchers at the University of Michigan.

Reporting in the July 26 issue ofCell, the researchers said their results point to an important difference between adult and fetal stem cells, sinceSox17does not assist in regrowing blood cells in adult mice.

"Identification ofSox17could also facilitate efforts to form blood-forming stem cells from human embryonic stem cells, a goal that could enhance bone marrow transplantation," lead author Injune Kim said in a prepared statement.

The finding may one day have implications for the treatment of childhood leukemia, where blood-making cells are disrupted.

"One of the next questions in our crosshairs is whetherSox17gets inappropriately activated in certain childhood leukemias -- and that's an idea that nobody had in their mind before this work," Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology, said in a prepared statement. "If it's true, it'll give us a new target for cancer," he said.

Stem cells generate all of the tissues in the developing human body. Later in life, they also provide replacement cells when adult tissues get damaged or worn out. Stem cells that form blood and immune-system cells are called hematopoietic stem cells. They are responsible for maintaining the blood and immune systems of the body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, hematopoietic stem cells are the only stem cells that are currently approved for therapeutic use for diseases such as cancer and other blood disorders.

More information

To learn more about hematopoeitic stem cells, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, July 26, 2007



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