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Researchers first to map gene that regulates adult stem cell growth

A new discovery in stem cell research may mean big things for cancer patients in the future. Gary Van Zant, Ph.D., and a research team at the University of Kentucky published their findings today in Nature Genetics, an international scientific journal.

The researchers genetically mapped a stem cell gene and its protein product, Laxetin, and building on that effort, carried the investigation all the way through to the identification of the gene itself. This is the first time such a complete study on a stem cell gene has been carried out. This particular gene is important because it helps regulate the number of adult stem cells in the body, particularly in bone marrow. Now that it has been identified, researchers hope the gene, along with its protein product Latexin, can be used clinically, such as for ramping up the stem cell count in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation.

The researchers agreed that this very process is not only interesting, but important because of its usefulness in a wide variety of future genetics studies.

"We're thinking about cancer in a big way," Van Zant said. "This is a great example of translational research from the most basic type of genetic research all the way to possible treatments for patients."

One big obstacle chemotherapy patients face is stem cell loss after treatments. This limits the dosage amount and types of chemotherapy that can be given. But if Latexin were used to increase the stem cell count, patients would be able to receive increased doses of chemotherapy and be able to recover more quickly. Increased stem cell counts also would be valuable during bone marrow transplants, where the greatest number of stem cells are desired to help a patient recover from cancer.

Another possible use for Latexin would be to help increase the number of stem cells available in umbilical cord blood, which also is used to transplant healthy stem
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Contact: Hollye Staley
Hollye.Staley@uky.edu
859-323-6363
University of Kentucky
14-Jan-2007


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