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Caltech biologists discover microRNAs that control function of blood stem cells
Date:8/4/2010

PASADENA, Calif.Hematopoietic stem cells provide the body with a constant supply of blood cells, including the red blood cells that deliver oxygen and the white blood cells that make up the immune system. Hematopoieticor bloodstem cells must also make more copies of themselves to ensure that they are present in adequate numbers to provide blood throughout a person's lifetime, which means they need to strike a delicate balance between self-renewal and development into mature blood-cell lineages. Perturb that balance, and the result can be diseases such as leukemia and anemia.

One key to fighting these diseases is gaining an understanding of the genes and molecules that control the function of these stem cells. Biologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have taken a large step toward that end, with the discovery of a novel group of molecules that are found in high concentrations within hematopoietic stem cells and appear to regulate their production.

When the molecules, tiny snippets of RNA known as microRNAs (miRNAs), are experimentally elevated to higher levels in the hematopoietic stem cells of laboratory mice, they "either impede or accelerate the function of these cells," says David Baltimore, Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology, recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and principal investigator on the research.

A paper about the work was published July 26 in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Intriguingly, the researchers found that one particular miRNA, miR-125b, plays a striking dual role. When miR-125b was mildly elevated, it accelerated the production of mature blood cells by blood stem cells far better than any other miRNA. But when its expression was pushed to far higher levels, Baltimore says, "it led to a vicious cancer within 6 months." While the exact mechanism underlying this transformation event i
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Contact: Kathy Svitil
ksvitil@caltech.edu
626-395-8022
California Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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