Researchers at McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute say they’ve discovered a new way to grow rare life-saving blood stem cells.
Blood stem cells are often used as a curative treatment for people suffering from blood based disorders like leukemia and lymphoma. The most common stem cell therapy is bone marrow transplant but often patients can’t find a donor. This study looked specifically at stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood samples which scientists say are a good high quality alternative. According to researchers the problem with that method is only about five per cent of all umbilical cord blood samples actually contain enough cells for a transplant.
Kristin Hope, principal investigator at the Stem Cell and Cancer Research says her team discovered how a protein called Musashi-2 regulates the function and development of blood stem cells. According to her, that knowledge provides new strategies that can be used to control the growth of the stem cells.
“What we’ve done in my lab is to use new found knowledge of how blood stem cells actually work to engineer and enhance the number of stem cells from these umbilical cord blood samples. So, we’ve essentially opened up the donor pool of samples available to patients waiting for transplants”.
Researches say the discovery could help the tens of thousands of patients suffering from a range of blood-based disorders. The study was published in the scientific journal ‘Nature’ on Wednesday.