These could one day be used to treat people who have blood diseases and leukemia with their own cells, rather than bone marrow transplants from a donor. They could also be used to create blood for transfusions.Read more here.
“This is a very big deal,” says Carolina Guibentif at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the research. “If you can develop [these cells] in the lab in a safe way and in high enough numbers, you wouldn’t be dependent on donors.”
In a healthy adult, blood stem cells are found in bone marrow, where they replenish the supply of red and white blood cells and platelets. “They are sort of master cells,” says George Daley at Harvard Medical School.
When these cells don’t work properly, they fail to maintain an adequate supply of blood cells. As a result, not enough oxygen reaches the body’s tissues. This can cause serious disease if organs such as the heart are affected. Blood stem cells can also be wiped out by chemotherapy for leukemia and other cancers.
People with these disorders tend to be treated with bone marrow – complete with blood stem cells – from a healthy donor. The difficulty is finding a match. There is a one in four chance of achieving this from a healthy sibling, but the odds are slashed to one in a million if a stranger needs to be found, says Daley.
hat tip Glenn Reynolds