Growth Signal Shifts Cord Stem Cells into High Gear. (Blood Booster)

By Seppa, N. | Science News, October 26, 2002 | Go to article overview

Growth Signal Shifts Cord Stem Cells into High Gear. (Blood Booster)


Seppa, N., Science News


Once considered a waste product of birth, umbilical cord blood is now prized as a source of stem cells that can replace the diseased bone marrow of people with leukemia and other illnesses. Unfortunately, umbilical cords often don't contain enough blood for a viable transplant of stem cells that, like marrow cells, can produce new blood cells of various types.

Scientists now report that cord-blood stem cells proliferate rapidly when the blood is cultured with a protein called Delta-1 and a combination of growth enhancers.

When transplanted into mice, these treated cells grafted well into the animals' bone marrow, suggesting they had begun to rebuild the animals' store of red and white blood cells. Some stem cells even found their way to the thymus to begin transformation into immune system workhorses called T cells, the researchers report in the Oct. 15 Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Study coauthor Irwin D. Bernstein of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues used Delta-1 because earlier tests had shown that it's a signaling protein in the so-called notch pathway--a pattern of cell-to-cell interactions that influences cell proliferation.

Although other attempts to culture cord blood have doubled or tripled the quantifies of its stem cells, Bernstein's team found that Delta-1 cranked it up more than 14-fold. The most desirable stem cell, a virtual cellular blank slate called CD34+CD38-, proliferated rapidly in a lab dish without converting into a more advanced cell. …

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