Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have isolated a human blood cell that represents the great-grandparent of all the cells of the blood, a finding that could lead to new treatments for blood cancers and other blood diseases.
This cell, called the multipotent progenitor, is the first offspring of the much-studied blood-forming stem cell that resides in the bone marrow and gives rise to all cells of the blood. It's also the cell that's thought to give rise to acute myelogenous leukemia when mutated.
Isolating this cell, which is well known in mice but had yet to be isolated in human blood, fills in an important gap in the human blood cell family tree. The work is published in the Dec. 13 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.
Irving Weissman, MD, director of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, spent his early career identifying each cell in the mouse blood family tree. The progression went from the stem cell through the progenitor cell through progressively more specialized cells, ending up with the red blood cells, platelets and immune cells that make up the bulk of the blood.
This detailed information has helped researchers understand the origins of blood diseases and cancers and has led to advances in bone marrow transplantation. But studies in mice are never a perfect substitute for understanding those same cells in humans, said Ravindra Majeti, MD, PhD, an instructor in hematology and co-lead author of the paper.