Discovery gives hope for easier and better blood stem cell transplants

07/Oct/2021     Mater GroupResearch

New Mater Research has discovered the main biological roadblock to harvesting blood stem cells for blood cancer transplants and identified a way to potentially circumvent the problem.

The findings by the Stem Cell Biology Group could lead to easier harvesting of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) in the future.

HSC transplants are currently the most effective and commonly used treatment for many blood cancers, but the harvesting of the blood cells is difficult.

HSCs normally reside in the bone marrows but the simplest way to harvest them for transplantation is to force them to move into the blood, a process called HSC mobilisation.

First author, Dr Kavita Bisht said the team discovered that the inflammatory protein “oncostatin M”, that is produced by some white blood cells in the bone marrow, acts as a brake that stops HSC mobilisation from the bone into the blood.

“Excitingly, we also found that by blocking oncostatin M with specific drugs, HSCs were better able to mobilise into the blood and engrafted better. This led to more robust blood cell reconstitution after transplantation,” Dr Bisht said.

Principal investigator, Professor Jean-Pierre Levesque said the discovery could dramatically improve care for blood cancer patients.

“Understanding how HSCs are regulated in the bone marrow is essential to improve HSC-based therapies such as transplantation. Our findings open the possibility of using anti-OSM agents to not only make it easier to harvest these blood stem cells, but also improve how they engraft in cancer patients.”

The research findings have been published in the journal Leukemia.

The international collaborative study involved researchers from Mater Research, in partnership with The University of Queensland, Saint Vincent Institute, Goethe University, Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Immunohematology, and German Red Cross Blood Donor Service Baden-Wuerttemberg-Hessen and RWTH Aachen University.

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