Saturday, December 01, 2007

Migrating Hematopoietic Stem Cells

If you ever wondered where or how your blood cells came to be or just what they were capable of doing you are not alone. There is no other stem cell that is more thoroughly studied (and understood?) than the blood stem cell. Unfortunately like most scientific inquisitions as you learn more about a phenomena the number of unknowns increases (exponentially by the way). Ockham's Razor is my less than successful attempt to keep a handle on my ever inquisitive mind. New research from the lab of Harvard Medical School professor of pathology Ulrich von Andrian, published in the November 30 edition of Cell, now suggests that these blood producing stem cells' biological role is far more versatile and dynamic than hanging out in the bone marrow and replenishing our blood and immune system cells when needed.

He and his colleagues have found that HSCs can travel from the bone marrow, through the blood system, and enter visceral organs where they perform reconnaissance missions in search of pathogenic invaders. Upon encountering an invader they immediately synthesize a defense, divide and mature, churning out new immune system cells such as dendritic cells and other leukocytes, right on the spot.

"This process changes the way we look at blood stem cells," says von Andrian. [ref]

As an example of how you can start from a simple press release for a local clinical trial targeting myeloma stem cells (using GRN163L) through the Cancer-Stem-Cells post to this little rant. :-) I just love learning more only to be humbled by more questions.

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