Some blood stem cells are better than others

May 30, 2018, University of Southern California
A healthy T cell. Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

In your body, blood stem cells produce approximately 10 billion new white blood cells, which are also known as immune cells, each and every day. Even more remarkably, if some of these blood stem cells fail to do their part, then other blood stem cells pick up their slack and overproduce whichever specific type of immune cell is lacking, according to a new USC Stem Cell study published in the journal EMBO Reports.

USC Ph.D. student Lisa Nguyen and colleagues in the laboratory of Rong Lu observed this phenomenon by tracking the individual blood stem cells that reside in the bone marrow of mice. To create the tracking labels, the scientists attached a unique piece of genetic code to each blood stem cell. During blood production, each blood stem cell passes its unique genetic label onto its progeny—which include two types of immune cells, known as B cells and T cells.

To test the contributions of these uniquely labelled blood stem cells, the scientists performed a series of bone marrow transplantations in mice. Mice received a combination of normal blood stem cells and deficient blood stem cells with a genetic mutation that prevented them from producing either B cells only, or both B and T cells.

The scientists found that the normal blood stem cells compensated for the B and T cell deficiencies. When co-transplanted with B-deficient stem cells, the normal stem cells overproduced B cells to keep the immune system in balance. And when co-transplanted with B- and T-deficient stem cells, the normal stem cells compensated by overproducing both B and T cells to maintain a balanced immune system.

Furthermore, the scientists found that a few specific blood stem cells were doing most of the work. These key blood stem cells proliferated dramatically to compensate for the immune cell deficiencies in the recipient mice, and these cells continued to proliferate when they were transplanted into different recipient . Furthermore, these highly productive showed changes in gene activity that enhanced their ability to oversupply deficient types of immune cells.

"These stem cells' ability to compensate provides some degree of resilience to disruptions of the blood and immune system—such as the aging process, the early stages of many cancers and disorders, and bone transplantation," said Lu, an assistant professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at USC. "By understanding and ultimately harnessing this innate capacity of stem , we can potentially optimize treatments for a wide range of diseases."

Explore further: The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

Related Stories

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

How blood can be rejuvenated

February 23, 2017
Our blood stem cells generate around a thousand billion new blood cells every day. But the blood stem cells' capacity to produce blood changes as we age. This leads to older people being more susceptible to anaemia, lowered ...

Using donor stem cells to treat spinal cord injury

August 28, 2017
A new study in mice published in The Journal of Neuroscience details a potential therapeutic strategy that uses stem cells to promote recovery of motor activity after spinal cord injury.

Blood stem cells study could pave the way for new cancer therapy

March 10, 2016
People with leukaemia could be helped by new research that sheds light on how the body produces its blood supply.

New discovery on early immune system development

November 12, 2013
Researchers at Lund University have shed light on how and when the immune system is formed, raising hope of better understanding various diseases in children, such as leukaemia.

Recommended for you

Female biology – two X chromosomes and ovaries – extends life and protects mice from aging

December 18, 2018
Around the world, women outlive men. This is true in sickness and in health, in war and in peace, even during severe epidemics and famine. In most animal species, females live longer than males.

Get a warrant: Researchers demand better DNA protections

December 18, 2018
New laws are required to control access to medical genetic data by law enforcement agencies, an analysis by University of Queensland researchers has found.

Wound care revolution: Put away your rulers and reach for your phone

December 18, 2018
Monitoring a wound is critical, especially in diabetic patients, whose lack of sensation due to nerve damage can lead to infection of a lesion and, ultimately, amputation. Clinicians and healthcare professionals at the McGill ...

Using light to stop itch

December 17, 2018
Itch is easily one of the most annoying sensations. For chronic skin diseases like eczema, it's a major symptom. Although it gives temporary relief, scratching only makes things worse because it can cause skin damage, additional ...

Law professor suggests a way to validate and integrate deep learning medical systems

December 13, 2018
University of Michigan professor W. Nicholson Price, who also has affiliations with Harvard Law School and the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, suggests in a Focus piece published in Science Translational Medicine, ...

Exercise-induced hormone irisin triggers bone remodeling in mice

December 13, 2018
Exercise has been touted to build bone mass, but exactly how it actually accomplishes this is a matter of debate. Now, researchers show that an exercise-induced hormone activates cells that are critical for bone remodeling ...

0 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.