The research found that cells called early lymphoid progenitors, which are responsible for producing T cells and B cells, thrive in an environment known as an osteoblastic niche. The investigation, published online today in Natureand led by Dr. Sean Morrison, also establishes a promising approach for scientists to map the entire blood-forming system.
"We believe this research moves us one step closer toward the development of cell therapies in the blood-forming system that don't exist today," said Dr. Morrison, Director of the Institute and Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "In understanding the environments for blood-forming stem cells and those of different kinds of progenitor cells, we can work toward reproducing those environments in the lab and growing cells that can be transplanted to treat a host of medical conditions."
These findings eventually may help increase the safety and effectiveness of bone-marrow transplants, such as those needed after healthy marrow is destroyed by radiation or chemotherapy treatments for childhood leukemia, Dr. Morrison said. The findings also may have implications for treating illnesses associated with loss of infection-fighting cells, such as HIV and severe combined immunodeficiency disease, better known as bubble boy disease.
The UTSW paper's first author is Dr. Lei Ding, a former postdoctoral research fellow at the Children's Research Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at UT Southwestern. Dr. Ding is now an assistant professor at Columbia University.
About the Children's Research Institute
Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is a joint venture positioned to build upon the comprehensive clinical expertise of Children's Medical Center and the internationally recognized scientific environment of UT Southwestern Medical Center. CRI's mission is to perform transformative biomedical research to better understand the biological basis of disease. Established in 2011, CRI is creating interdisciplinary groups of exceptional scientists and physicians to pursue research at the interface of regenerative medicine, cancer biology and metabolism, which together hold unusual potential for discoveries that can yield groundbreaking advances in science and medicine.
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