Finding that Mcl-1 blocks cell suicide in hematopoietic stem cells also suggests that interfering with this protein might improve leukemia treatment
The complex and life-sustaining series of steps by which hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) give rise to all of the bodys red and white blood cells and platelets has now been discovered to depend in large part on a single protein called Mcl-1. This finding, from an investigator at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, is published in the February 18 issue of Science.
Mcl-1 blocks the biochemical cascade of reactions that trigger apoptosis ("cell suicide") of HSCs, according to Joseph Opferman, Ph.D., assistant member of St. Jude Biochemistry. Expression of Mcl-1 thus ensures that HSCs continue to thrive and multiply so they can complete the task of making huge numbers of blood cells. This process is extremely important during the initial development of the blood system before birth. Expression of Mc1-1 is also crucial for maintaining blood cells throughout life as red and white cells and platelets die and must be replaced. HSCs are also needed to rebuild the blood system of patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for cancer. Opferman completed work on this project while a member of Stanley Korsmeyers laboratory at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston).
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