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September 2005 Issue

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New Finding May Aid Adult Stem Cell Collection

Published September 2005

Cincinnati scientists have discovered how blood-regenerating stem cells move from bone marrow into the blood stream.

The finding has led to the development of a new chemical compound that can accelerate this process (called stem cell mobilization) in mice--which could eventually lead to more efficient stem cell harvesting for human use.

Adult stem cell transplantation, or bone marrow transplantation, is used during the treatment of cancer and genetic blood diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, to restore blood cell formation in bone marrow damaged by high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

When blood stem cells are taken from a matching donor and injected into the patient after radiation or chemotherapy, the cells migrate into the bone marrow of the recipient.

The team, led by Jose Cancelas, MD, PhD, and David Williams, MD, studied the migration of mouse stem cells to better understand how adult cells move into the bone marrow during stem cell transplants--or can be directed into the blood stream, where they can be more easily harvested for use in transplant procedures.

Dr. Cancelas, lead author of the report, published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine, is director of research at UC's Hoxworth Blood Center. Dr. Williams, the senior author, heads experimental hematology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

The researchers discovered that by inhibiting a group of proteins known as the RAC GTPase family in mice, they were able to “instruct” stem cells to move from their home in the bone marrow and into the blood stream, where they can easily be collected. They achieved this using a drug, discovered by Cincinnati Children's faculty member Yi Zheng, PhD, known as NSC23766.

Researching the location of and the factors involved in stem cell movement and regeneration is important to the development of new therapeutic tools in stem cell therapy, says Dr. Cancelas.

The research team also included Andrew Lee, Rethinasamy Prabhakar, PhD, and Keith Stringer, MD, PhD. Their work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Blood Foundation.

More than 40,000 bone marrow transplants are performed each year worldwide, about 25,000 using the recipient's own tissue, and 15,000 using tissue from matching donors.

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