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Scientists identify crucial gene for blood development

ther genes necessary for blood system development, and at least four such genes have been identified. The Korsmeyer group used embryonic stem cell methods to create cells in the laboratory as well as mice lacking the MLL gene, and showed that the gene's absence had profound effects on the development of the blood-forming system known as the hematopoietic system that functions in embryonic, fetal and adult life.

A single hematopoietic stem cell can generate many different types of blood cells. This includes red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body, and at least seven different types of white blood cells, which help heal wounds and form the immune defenses. Adult animals that lacked the MLL were unable to manufacture the various types of mature cells, and fetal animals without the gene could not generate the critical blood stem cells, says Korsmeyer, who is also the Sidney Farber Professor of Pathology and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

These results show, the authors write, that MLL is part of "a select set of genes required for all definitive blood lineages in the embryo." The protein made by the MLL gene is known to regulate some of the master genes, known as HOX genes that guide the formation of body tissues and organs. Malfunction of these genes has been implicated in several types of cancer.

The paper's other authors are Jill K. Fisher, William Avery and Stacey Wade of Dana-Farber and Daniel Foy of Children's Hospital Boston. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Beckenstein Fellowship.


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Contact: Janet Haley Dubow
janet_haley@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5665
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
15-Mar-2004


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