The method developed by Slukvin's group was shown to produce blood cells in abundance. For every million stem cells, the researchers were able to produce 30 million blood cells.
A critical aspect of the work is the use of modified messenger RNA to direct stem cells toward particular developmental fates. The new approach makes it possible to induce cells without introducing any genetic artifacts. By co-opting nature's method of making cells and avoiding all potential genetic artifacts, cells for therapy can be made safer.
"You can do it without a virus, and genome integrity is not affected," Slukvin notes. Moreover, while the new work shows that blood can be made by manipulating genetic mechanisms, the approach is likely to be true as well for making other types of cells with therapeutic potential, including cells of the pancreas and heart.
An unfulfilled aspiration, says Slukvin, is to make hematopoietic stem cells, multipotent stem cells found in bone marrow. Hematopoietic stem cells are used to treat some cancers, including leukemia and multiple myeloma. Devising a method for producing them in the lab remains a significant challenge.
"We still don't know how to do that," Slukvin notes, "but our new approach to making blood cells will give us an opportunity to model their development in a dish and identify novel hematopoietic stem cell factors."
The study was conducted under the umbrella of the Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium, run by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, and involved a collaboration of scientists at UW-Madison, the Morgridge Institute for Research, the University of Minnesota at the Twin Cities and the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
In addition to Slukvin, authors of the new report include Irina Elch
|Contact: Igor Slukvin|
University of Wisconsin-Madison