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Immune system lab model overcomes ethical limits on human hematopoietic stem cells studies

Scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have joined with colleagues at several other institutions to develop a laboratory model of the human immune system. This model will allow scientists to study ways for improving the results of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation without putting patients at risk.

Researchers say the model will also be a valuable tool for studying how stem cells give rise to various parts of the immune system, including T lymphocytes; how immune cells kill cancer cells and fight infections; and how immune cells respond to radiation and chemotherapy, two major treatments for many cancers. A report on this work appears in the May 15 issue of Journal of Immunology. The study was done in cooperation with The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME), the University of Tennessee (Memphis), EMD Lexigen Research Center (Billerica, MA) and the University of Massachusetts (Worcester, MA).

The breakthrough is particularly important because it solves an ethical dilemma facing researchers who study the human immune system, according to Rupert Handgretinger, M.D., Ph.D., director of Stem Cell Transplantation at St. Jude and co-leader of the Transplantation and Gene Therapy Program.

"Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation to replace a patient's own blood system could cure many more people who have blood cancers and certain genetic and immune disorders," Handgretinger said. "Unfortunately, this treatment has not reached its full potential, in part because of ethical limitations on studying stem cell transplantations in humans. Our new laboratory model will now let researchers around the world do many important experiments that will provide valuable insights into how the immune system works and how to increase the success rate of HSC transplantation."

"Because this new humanized mouse model will permit studies of normal stem cell function, it will be an important tool in research on regenerative medicine," said Leonard D. S
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Contact: Carrie Strehlau
Carrie.Strehlau@stjude.org
901-495-3306
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
9-May-2005


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