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Jefferson scientists propose mechanism to control the body's red blood cell and platelet production

a reversible blockade of growth and differentiation of red cell precursors, which may lead to cell death. They detail part of the intricate cascade of cellular events leading to activation of these enzymes in the blockade of red blood cell development.

Apoptosis is a fundamental biological process that is vital to cell differentiation and normal development. In human embryos, for example, apoptosis creates fingers from mitt-like hands. It occurs during normal aging and sometimes during irreversible cell injury from radiation and other poisons. Scientists believe apoptosis gone awry underlies neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, and cancer.

Apoptosis has received a great deal of attention in the popular press in recent years when scientists discovered that part of the reason cancer cells grow with abandon is because they lose the ability to die at a preset time.

The Jefferson group's work indicates a "new frontier" in understanding apoptosis, Dr. Peschle says. He explains that "mild stimulation of death receptors and caspases induces a reversible inhibition of red cell development rather than apoptosis." This provides a key mechanism in fine tuning cell growth and differentiation.

Such a novel mechanism may be of general significance, he says, and apply to diverse cell types, in addition to red blood cells and platelets. Failures in the mechanism may lead to either abnormal cell growth inhibition or excessive cell proliferation, such as occurs in some anemias and leukemias.


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Contact: Steve Benowitz
steven.benowitz@mail.tju.edu
215-955-6300
Thomas Jefferson University
1-Oct-1999


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