Scientists have made new discoveries on the complex origins of blood-forming stem cells.
The production of these cells involves many more 'ancestor' cells than previously believed, say Dr Shannon McKinney-Freeman of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
In Nature Cell Biology on Monday (18 September) the team outlined their work. They state: 'Current dogma asserts that mammalian lifelong blood production is established by a small number of blood progenitors. However, this model is based on assays that require the disruption, transplantation and/or culture of embryonic tissues.'
So instead, the team did an analysis using mice that avoided the 'disruption, culture or transplantation of embryos'.
This showed that, to establish the haematopoietic system in embryos, several hundred different precursors are involved in the first two weeks. They also discovered that the recruitment of endothelial blood precursors has ended by day 11.
'Our work illuminates the dynamics of the developing mammalian blood system during homeostasis,' they write.
The team believes that the number of precursor cells in humans is likely at least ten times higher than that in mice.
Dr McKinney-Freeman says: 'All previous studies had reported that very few precursor cells are involved in establishing the blood system. But data in this study show that actually hundreds of cells are involved and that the developing blood system is more complex and may be shaped in part by regulatory bottlenecks that occur late in development and serve to restrict the number of blood-forming stem cells.
'Understanding how the blood system emerges, including the number and complexity of the progenitor cells involved, will help us unravel the origins of disease and identify cells that might be susceptible to disease-causing mutations.'
Source: Ganuza, M. et al. Lifelong haematopoiesis is established by hundreds of precursors throughout mammalian ontogeny. Nature Cell Biology 18 September 2017 doi:10.1038/ncb3607
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