Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered the earliest form of human blood stem cells and deciphered the mechanism by which these embryonic stem cells replicate and grow. They also found a surprising biological marker that pinpoints these stem cells, which serve as the progenitors for red blood cells and lymphocytes.
The biochemical marker, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), is well known for its role in the regulation of blood pressure, blood vessel growth, and inflammation. ACE inhibitors are already widely used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure, and the findings are, the researchers say, likely to hold promise for developing new treatments for heart diseases, anemias, leukemia and other blood cancers, and autoimmune diseases because they show for the first time that ACE plays a fundamental role in the very early growth and development of human blood cells.
"We figured out how to get the 'mother' of all blood stem cells with the right culture conditions," says Elias Zambidis, M.D., Ph.D., of the Institute of Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Division of Pediatric Oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
"There is real hope that in the future we can grow billions of blood cells at will to treat blood-related disorders, and just as critically if not more so, we've got ACE as a 'new' old marker to guide our work," Zambidis adds.
Researchers did not expect ACE to have a role in blood stem cells, he notes, "but were very pleasantly surprised to discover it as a beacon for finding the earliest blood stem cells known, as well as new ways to find and manipulate this marker to make them grow."
The team's findings, published Aug. 26 in the online edition of the
journal Blood, explain that these earliest stem cells marked by ACE,
called hemangioblasts, first arise normally in the developing human
|Contact: Valerie Mehl|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions