Hematopoietic stem cells are rare bone marrow cells that perform important functions in the blood and immune system. In the context of the strong technological advances in laboratory stem cell growth achieved in recent years, hematopoietic cells are an exception as they are very difficult to grow in the laboratory and this has limited several research efforts related to stem cell transplantation or gene therapy for various diseases, such as cancer or blood disorders.
However, a group of researchers from Stanford and the University of Tokyo, who are unique in their field, now state that they have found a way to grow these cells very efficiently in the laboratory. Their research would show for the first time that it is possible to “persuade the hematopoietic stem of cells from mice to renew themselves hundreds or even thousands of times in a period of only 28 days.” The study was published in Nature.
Hiromitsu Nakauchi, one of the researchers involved in the project and professor of genetics at Stanford, describes the results as follows: “For 50 years, researchers in laboratories around the world have been looking for ways to grow these cells in large quantities. We have now identified a number of conditions that allow these cells to expand 900 times in a single month. We believe this approach could transform the way hematopoietic stem cell transplants and gene therapy are performed in humans.”
In addition, the researchers also found that, in the course of culture, it is possible “to use CRISPR technology to correct any genetic defects in the original hematopoietic cells. These genetically corrected cells can then be expanded for transplantation, which should allow us to use a patient’s cells as gene therapy.”
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