Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) linked to abnormal stem cells

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found that abnormal bone marrow stem cells drive the development of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), serious blood diseases that are common among the elderly and that can progress to acute leukemia. The findings could lead to targeted therapies against MDS and prevent MDS-related cancers. The study is published today in the online edition of the journal Blood.

"Researchers have suspected that MDS is a 'stem cell disease,' and now we finally have proof," said co-senior author Amit Verma, M.B.B.S., associate professor of medicine and of developmental and molecular biology at Einstein and attending physician in oncology at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care. "Equally important, we found that even after MDS standard treatment, abnormal stem cells persist in the bone marrow. So, although the patient may be in remission, those stem cells don't die and the disease will inevitably return. Based on our findings, it's clear that we need to wipe out the abnormal stem cells in order to improve cure rates."

MDS are a diverse group of incurable diseases that affect the bone marrow and lead to low numbers of blood cells. While some forms of MDS are mild and easily managed, some 25 to 30 percent of cases develop into an called . Each year, about 10,000 to 15,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with MDS, according to the National .

Most cases of MDS occur in people over age 60, but the disease can affect people of any age and is more common in men than women. Symptoms vary widely, ranging from anemia to infections, fever and bleeding. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy to destroy abnormal blood cells plus supportive care such as blood transfusions.

In the current study, lead author Britta Will, Ph.D., research associate in the department of cell biology, and her colleagues analyzed bone marrow stem cells and (i.e., cells formed by ) from 16 patients with various types of MDS and 17 healthy controls. The stem and progenitor cells were isolated from bone marrow using novel cell-sorting methods developed in the laboratory of co-senior author Ulrich Steidl, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology and of medicine and the Diane and Arthur B. Belfer Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research at Einstein.

Genome-wide analysis revealed widespread genetic and epigenetic alterations in stem and progenitor cells taken from MDS patients, in comparison to cells taken from healthy controls. The abnormalities were more pronounced in patients with types of MDS likely to prove fatal than in patients with lower-risk types.

"Our study offers new hope that MDS can be more effectively treated, with therapies that specifically target genes that are deregulated in early stem and progenitor cells," said Dr. Steidl. "In addition, our findings could help to detect minimal residual disease in patients in remission, allowing for more individualized treatment strategies that permanently eradicate the disease."

More information: The paper is titled, "Stem and progenitor cells in myelodysplastic syndromes show aberrant stage specific expansion and harbor genetic and epigenetic alterations."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

7 hours ago

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

7 hours ago

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

10 hours ago

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.