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Study identifies molecule essential for proper localization of blood stem cells

Scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Regenerative Medicine and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HCSI) have defined a molecule that dictates how blood stem cells travel to the bone marrow and establish blood and immune cell production. The discovery may help improve bone marrow stem cell transplantation and the treatment of several blood disorders.

"This is another remarkable example of how bone and bone marrow interact. A receptor known to participate in the body's regulation of calcium and bone also is critical for stem cells to engraft in the bone marrow and regenerate blood and immune cells," says David Scadden, MD, director of the MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine and co-director of the HSCI. "It reminds us how tissues interact and how looking closely at where stem cells reside may tell us a lot about how to manipulate them." Scadden is senior author of the report, which will be published in the journal Nature and has received early online release.

Hematopoietic or blood stem cells are critical to the daily production of over 10 billion blood cells and are the basis for bone marrow transplant therapy for cancer. Rare and difficult to identify, these cells are extremely powerful at regenerating blood and immune cells but only if they travel to the proper location when introduced into the body. Typically the cells are infused into a vein, and they find their way to the bone marrow through a process that depends on largely unknown molecules.

Within the bone marrow cavity, stem cells are usually found in the outer layer close to the inner surface of the bone. Since the process of remodeling bone takes place in the adjacent bone tissue and because studies by Scadden's group and others have shown that bone-forming osteoblast cells are essential to the regulation of the stem cell environment, it seemed probable that fundamental interactions exist between the processes of bone formation and stem cell de
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
13-Jan-2006


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