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Environment for infection-fighting cells.

There now is a deeper understanding of the environment within bone marrow that nurtures stem cells. The biological setting for specialized blood-forming cells that produce the infection-fighting white blood cells known as T cells and B cells has been identified by scientists at the Children's Medical Research Center, Dallas, Texas.

It was found that cells called early lymphoid progenitors, which are responsible for producing T cells and B cells, thrive in an environment known as an osteoblastic niche. The investigation, published in Nature and led by Sean Morrison, also establishes a promising approach for mapping the entire blood-forming system.

Scientists already know how to manufacture large quantities of stem cells that give rise to the nervous system, skin, and other tissues, but they have been unable to make blood-forming stem cells in a laboratory, in part because of a lack of understanding about the niche in which they and other progenitor cells reside in the body.

"We believe this research moves us one step closer toward the development of cell therapies in the blood-forming system that don't exist today," reports Morrison, director of CMRC. "In understanding the environments for blood-forming stem cells and those of different kinds of progenitor cells, we can work toward reproducing those environments in the lab and growing cells that can be transplanted to treat a host of medical conditions."

These findings eventually may help increase the safety and effectiveness of bone-marrow transplants, such as those needed after healthy marrow is destroyed by radiation or chemotherapy treatments for childhood leukemia. The findings also may have implications for treating illnesses associated with loss of infection-fighting cells, such as HIV and severe combined immunodeficiency disease, better known as bubble boy disease.

"Our research documents that there are different niches, or microenvironments, for blood-forming stem cells and restricted progenitors in the bone marrow," relates Morrison. "One way that bone marrow makes different kinds of blood-forming cells is by compartmentalizing them into different neighborhoods within the marrow."

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Title Annotation:Bone Marrow
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2013
Words:327
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