Eventually, individuals may choose to bank their own marrow for potential future use, Dr. Zhou says. "Not only are a person's own blood stem cells the best therapy for many blood cancers, but they may also be useful for other purposes, such as to slow aging."
A Scrambled Destruction Signal
Bone marrow is the home of HSCs that produce all blood cells, including all types of immune cells. One treatment for patients with blood cancers produced by abnormal blood cells is to remove the unhealthy marrow and transplant healthy blood stem cells from a donor. Patients with some cancers may also need a bone marrow transplant when anticancer treatments damage the blood. Bone marrow transplantation can also be used to treat other disorders, such as immune deficiency disorders.
The process of donating bone marrow, however, can be arduous and painful, requiring extraction of marrow with a needle from a large bone under general anesthesia. A donor may also need to undergo the procedure multiple times in order to provide enough stem cells for the recipient.
Because of these issues of extracting donor bone marrow, there have been a number of attempts to expand HSCs that have focused on the transcription factor HOXB4, which stimulates HSCs to make copies of themselves. "The more HOXB4 protein there is in stem cells, the more they will self-renew and expand their population," Dr. Zhou says.
But all previous efforts are limited in their applicability. HSCs are notoriously refractory to gene transfer. Virus-based vehicl
|Contact: Lauren Woods|
Weill Cornell Medical College