Bone marrow transplants can mean the difference between life and death for patients with leukemia and certain immune deficiencies. A transplant doesn’t always guarantee success, but new findings from OMRF could raise the odds of recovery.
In diseases like leukemia, where a cancer of the blood-producing cells makes defective blood cells, doctors often turn to bone marrow transplants to correct the problem. Unfortunately, choosing the right cells to transplant isn’t easy, as not every cell in the bone marrow will be able to make new blood cells or make copies of themselves to replenish the supply of blood-producing cells.
In new research, a team of scientists at OMRF and the University of Texas at Austin has discovered that a particular protein is vital to the development of those blood-producing cells, known as hematopoietic stem cells. This new finding could help doctors identify the cells in healthy bone marrow necessary for transplants.
“This one protein called Arid3A is required for hematopoietic stem cells to develop properly,” said OMRF scientist Carol Webb, Ph.D., who led the research team at OMRF. “It would be a great boon to patients with leukemia or other blood-related diseases if we can build on this discovery to make bone marrow transplants more effective.”
The researchers studied laboratory mice that were genetically engineered so that their bodies would not produce the Arid3A protein. “Without the protein, the mice couldn’t make normal numbers of the stem cells that produce blood,” said Webb. “So as a result, their bodies made very few blood cells.”
Webb said the next step is to continue examining the functions of the protein and investigating possible therapies based on reprogrammed cells. Having learned that the Arid3A protein is so important for the creation of blood-producing stem cells, scientists could screen bone marrow for the protein to decide which cells should be transplanted.
The new research, which was funded by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appears in the current issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.