Blood taken from a normal mouse The blue coloring is characteristic of blood cells called blasts, which are proliferating. Blasts are in a small minority. © F. Moreau-Gachelin/Institut Curie
Blood taken from a leukemic mouse In blood taken from a leukemic mouse, the proliferating cells are much more numerous, indicating the presence of leukemic cells. © F. Moreau-Gachelin/Institut Curie
At the Institut Curie, an Inserm team has just identified the molecular mechanism long suspected to account for the formation of malignant cells in the most frequent leukemia – acute myeloid leukemia. For a cell to become leukemic, it must not only proliferate but also no longer become specialized. Mutations in its gene confer autonomous activity on the Kit receptor, thereby allowing cells to proliferate in the absence any external signal.This study was published in the 12 December 2005 issue of Cancer Cell.
Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow from stem cells. In response to growth factors, stem cells differentiate into precursor cells of three blood lines: red blood cells (also called erythrocytes), white blood cells (lymphocytes, macrophages…) and platelets. The cells are only released into the blood when they reach maturity.
Leukemias are malignant blood diseases characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of blood cells. Lymphoid leukemias, which affect lymphocytes, are distinct from myeloid leukemias, which affect the precursors of all the other blood cell lines. The acute nature of leukemia is reflected in a complete absence of mature cells and in the presence in the bone marrow of numerous cells blocked at an early stage of their maturation.
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