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Role of the nervous system in regulating stem cells discovered

New study by Mount Sinai researchers may lead to improved stem cell therapies for patients with compromised immune systems due to intensive cancer therapy or autoimmune disease. The study is published in this week's issue of Cell.

A group, led by Paul Frenette, Associate Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that the sympathetic--or "fight or flight" branch--of the nervous system plays a critical role in coaxing bone marrow stem cells into the bloodstream. Bone marrow cells known as hematopoietic stem cells are the source for blood and immune cells.

Hematopoietic stem cell transplants are now routinely used to restore the immune systems of patients after intensive cancer therapy and for treatment of other disorders of the blood and immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health. While physicians once retrieved the stem cells directly from bone marrow, doctors now prefer to harvest donor cells that have been mobilized into circulating blood.

In normal individuals, the continuous trafficking of the stem cells between the bone marrow and blood fills empty or damaged niches and contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cell formation, according to the researchers. Although it has been known for many years that the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells can be enhanced by multiple chemicals, the mechanisms that regulate this critical process are largely unknown, they said.

One factor in particular, known as hematopoietic cytokine granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), is widely used clinically to elicit hematopoietic stem cell mobilization for life-saving bone marrow transplantation, said Dr. Frenette.

Several years ago, Dr. Frenette's group reported that a second compound, fucoidan, which is synthesized by certain seaweeds, could also spur the stem cells into action. The group speculated that the seaweed derivative might work by imitating a similar compound, called sulfatide,
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Contact: Mount Sinai Press Office
newsmedia@mssm.edu
212-241-9200
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine
26-Jan-2006


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