Scientists and researchers from the Weill Cornell Medicine made a breakthrough discovery. They stumbled on a unique way to produce limitless blood supply from readily-available stem cells, which line the blood vessels. This is the first time that a research team is successful in generating such blood forming stem cells.
Senior author of the study Shahin Rafii shares that this discovery brings doctors and scientist a step closer to treating blood disorders effectively. The discovery also enables them to gain insight into the complex biology of stem cell self-renewal machinery.
What Are Hematopoietic Stem Cells?
HSCs or Hematopoietic stem cells are long lasting cells that can transform into all blood cells types such as White Blood Cells or WBC, Red Blood Cell or RBC, and blood platelets. RBC do not survive for long and, therefore, need to be continuously replenished. If the RBC amount in the blood supply goes down, diseases such as anemia and other life-endangering infections can occur.
One of the unique abilities of the HSCs is that it can "self-renew" to form more of its kind. This special characteristic permits just a few thousand HSCs to generate all the blood cells an individual requires for survive in their lifetime.
Scientists Close To Creating Limitless Blood Supply: Study And Results
Researchers have been persevering to emulate the process through which our bodies produce HSCs to treat and cure diseases for a long time. Their previous attempts were unsuccessful as the researchers were unable to create a nurturing environment in which the stems cells would be able to convert into long-lasting new cells.
However, Rafii and team were successful in effectively converting vascular endothelial cells into completely functioning HSCs. These HSCs can be used to produce a limitless blood supply for a lifetime. Vascular endothelial cells are generally found in our body's blood vessel lining.
To achieve this feat, the team based their current study on a previous research, which it conducted in 2014. In the previous study, the researchers were able to prove that adult human vascular endothelial cells can be converted into healthy HSCs. However, they were unable to deduce whether the HSC they generated were true human HSCs or not.
To validate the HSC's authenticity, the team applied their previously-developed conversion process to mouse blood marrow transplant models. These models were not only capable of normal immune functions, but also ultimate proof for HSC's potential, which can be rigorously tested.
Extraordinarily, the conversion process produced a huge number of transplantable HSCs that can supply mice with blood for their entire lifespan. This phenomenon is known as engraftment in medical circles.
Rafii and team — in collaboration with Jenny Xiang from Genomics Services and Olivier Elemento from HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Institute for Computational Biomedicine —demonstrated that all progeny of HSCs were gifted with the same genetic characteristics found in normal adult stem cells.
The study's key findings were published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, May 17.