Thursday, August 14, 2014

14/08/2014: Stem cell research discovery in zebrafish

Australian researchers studying zebrafish have made one of the most significant ever discoveries in stem cell research, reports The Guardian.

They have uncovered the mystery of how a critical type of stem cell found in blood and bone marrow, and essential to replenishing the body’s supply of blood and immune cells, is formed.

The cells, called hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), are already used in transplants for patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and myeloma.

But HSCs have significant potential to treat a broader range of conditions because they appear to be able to form all kinds of vital cells including muscle, blood vessel and bone.

The problem was scientists had no idea how HSCs formed, making growing them in a lab and using them to treat spinal cord injuries, diabetes and degenerative disorders impossible.

However, a research team led by Professor Peter Currie, from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Victoria’s Monash University, uncovered a major part of HSC’s development.
Understanding how HSCs self-renew to replenish blood cells is considered the holy grail of advancing stem cell research.

Using high-resolution microscopy, Currie’s team filmed HSCs as they formed inside zebrafish embryos. In playing the film back, they saw a “buddy” cell appeared to help HSCs form.

“It’s a sad fact of life that humans are basically just modified fish, and our genomes are virtually identical to theirs,” Currie said.

“Zebrafish make HSCs in exactly the same way as humans do, but what’s special about these guys is that their embryos and larvae develop free living and not in utero as they do in humans.

“So not only are these larvae free-swimming, but they are also transparent, so we could see every cell in the body forming, including HSCs.”

The researchers were initially studying muscle mutations in the zebrafish. But when playing the film back they noticed that the muscle-deficient zebrafish had several times the normal population of HSCs.

Read more HERE.

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