Scientists have made a significant advance toward understanding the regulation of blood stem cells and the complex, lifelong process of blood cell formation. A research study published in the February issue of Developmental Cell expands on previous studies by using adult animals to examine the role of a key gene known to be required for blood cell formation. Information gained from this research will be useful for future studies aimed at directing stem cell differentiation in a variety of potential therapeutic contexts.
Blood cell formation, known as hematopoiesis, begins with a hematopoietic stem cell (HSC), which can either "self-renew" and make more copies of itself or differentiate into either red blood cells, various types of white blood cells, or platelets. The genes that control proliferation and differentiation have been difficult to study using traditional gene disruption methods because loss of genes thought to be critical for this process often results in embryonic death, making it impossible to study the role of the gene of interest in mature animals.
Dr. Michael P. Cooke and colleagues from the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego found a way around this problem. The researchers used random mutagenesis and screening to find animals with hematopoiesis defects, and they used genetics to identify the causative gene. One line mapped to a mutation in the gene c-Myb, which has a known role in regulation of blood formation.
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