New Hope in Regenerative Medicine

Scientists have found a way to transform blood cells into blood-forming ones.

Researchers have taken mature blood cells from mice and reprogrammed them into the blood-forming variety using a combination of eight genetic switches. The transcription factors commonly known as HSCs are capable of self-renewal. They can also give growth to the cellular segments of the blood.

With the latest findings related to the HSCs production, the goals of regenerative medicine have finally become attainable. Bone marrow transplants, also known as blood transplants, are a method that has been used to save patient’s lives for over three decades. However, finding the right cell matches for the transplantation process has proved challenging for many patients and researchers.

HSCs are the starting basis for the transplantation process regardless if their source was from peripheral blood, bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. The patient’s transplant success rate is based on the number of HSCs that are available for usage. If there are a great number of cells available to be used, the better chance that the transplant will take hold for the patient.

Unfortunately HSCs are a rare commodity and are comprised of about one in every 20,000 bone marrow cells. If there was a way to manufacture HSCs from the other cells in a patient, they could be utilized for transplants and a way to model diseases related to blood development.

The latest findings screened gene expression using various types of blood progenitor cells taken from mice. By using 40 types of blood, they were able to identify control factors that turned the genes both on and off based on the exclusive HSCs.

The production of blood cells typically moves in one direction that includes stem cells, progenitors and mature effector cells. However, the main goal was to reverse the process by developing the HSCs from various blood cells that were specific to the HSCs.

Through this series of experiments, the team was able to find that six out of the 36 factors were able to reprogram two varieties of progenitor cells in the iHSCs.

This was done by exposing the cells to viruses that contained the 8 factors and molecular device that turned the genes on when in the presence of doxycycline. The exposed cells were then transplanted into the mice and activated by way of doxycycline. The iHSCs were then able to generate the stockpile of blood cells that were transplanted into the mice to show that they could differentiate into the various blood lines. It also marks the innovative direction mice are taking in response to HSC research.

Because questions such as how the eight factors contribute to the reprogramming process, and the success of the approaches on viruses and transcription, the latest findings are far from being recorded at the transplantation clinic. The studies are also inconclusive when it comes to the results related to human cells versus non-blood in correlation to the reprogrammed iHSCs.

Gene matched donors and utilizing the cells of a patient to develop iHSCs may be a long way away, but it’s definitely a movement in the right direction. The discovery could also have a major impact on the transplantation process down the road.

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