A discovery made by Dr. Tarik Mry, President and Scientific Director and Director of the Hematopoiesis and Cancer research unit at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montral (IRCM), and his team was recently published in Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology. The researchers found that a protein can regulate certain characteristics of blood stem cells, which could lead to a better treatment for leukemia patients. Dr. Cyrus Khandanpour, medical doctor and postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Mry's laboratory, is the study's first author.
The transplantation of blood stem cells in used worldwide as a therapy for patients suffering from leukemia and other blood diseases. "The blood stem cells given to leukemia patients are capable of renewing the entire blood producing system and all its blood cells, including white cells, red cells and platelets," explains Dr. Mry.
Patients with leukemia or a blood disease are initially treated with chemotherapy, which destroys their entire blood forming system along with the disease. Blood stem cells can then be used in two different ways. The first is to harvest them from the patient before chemotherapy, and give the patient his/her own stem cells back after the treatment so they can rebuild blood cells. "One of the problems with this therapy is that blood stem cells normally reside in a niche between the bone and surrounding cells, and are in a dormant state," explains Dr. Khandanpour. "To obtain a sufficient number of stem cells, they have to be mobilized from their bone marrow niche so they can enter the bloodstream where they can be readily collected."
The second possibility is to harvest blood stem cells from a healthy donor and give them to a patient following the chemotherapy treatment. These foreign cells will then rebuild the patient's blood system and regenerate its blood cells. "However, this therapy still fails in about 10% to 20% of cases," adds Dr.
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Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal