Precursors To Red Blood Cells Form Earlier Than Previously Thought

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered that the precursors of blood cells develop in the embryos of mammals sooner than previously thought. The discovery may ultimately help researchers to better understand under what conditions blood cells form, an essential piece of the puzzle for those looking to find ways to expand blood stem cells for human patients needing bone marrow transplants.

The abstracted findings of the study are being presented on May 4 at the 1998 Pediatric Societies' annual meeting in New Orleans. Using the mouse embryo as a model, the researchers sought to pinpoint the place and time that blood cells precursors first arise. "We wanted to know where and when embryonic cells become committed to blood cell fates, if blood cell precursors originate in the embryo or in the yolk sac, and at what point they show up in the body of the embryo," said Jim Palis, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and the team's lead researcher.

Palis and his colleagues found that blood cell precursors originate soon after the first appearance of mesoderm cells in the embryo. These findings suggest that mesoderm cells become committed to blood cell fates during earliest stages of gastrulation.

Red blood cells form in two distinct waves. The first wave consists of primitive red blood cells that form in the yolk sac. The yolk sac is an organ outside of the forming embryo body that transfers nutrients from the mother to the embryo before the placenta is formed. The second wave consists of definitive red blood cells that form later in the body of the fetus and in adults. Using an assay system developed by co-authors Gordon Keller, Ph.D., and Marion Kennedy, Ph.D., of the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver that can distinguish between primitive and definitive red blood cell precursors, the research team found that definitive red blood cell precursors were found in the yolk sac before they were present within the body of the

Contact: Teri D'Agostino
University of Rochester

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