06 January 2020

German researchers have exploited cutting-edge techniques to reveal new discoveries about how cells are organised within the mouse bone marrow and how they interact.

A team led by Dr Simon Haas of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, developed new methods to visualise the 3D organisation of the bone marrow at the single-cell level.

This led to the discovery of previously unknown and rare cell types which the researchers say create specific microenvironments needed for blood generation from stem cells.

The team believe their work provides a “novel scientific basis” for studying blood diseases such as anaemias and leukaemias. Details of the study appeared in the journal Nature Cell Biology in December last year.

The team took mouse bone marrow samples to explore the bone marrow environment. They combined single-cell and spatial transcriptomics with novel computational methods, and found 32 different cell types, including extremely rare and previously unknown cell types.

Researcher Dr Chiara Baccin said: “So far, very little was known about how different cells are organised within the bone marrow and how they interact to maintain blood stem cells. Our approach unveils the cellular composition, the 3D organisation and the intercellular communication in the bone marrow, a tissue that has thus far been difficult to study using conventional methods.”

Dr Haas added: “We believe that the rare niche cells establish unique environments in the bone marrow that are required for stem cell function and production of new blood and immune cells.”

Source: Baccin C, Al-Sabah J, Velten L, Helbling PM, Grünschläger F, Hernández-Malmierca P, Nombela-Arrieta C, Steinmetz LM, Trumpp A, Haas S. (2019) “Combined single-cell and spatial transcriptomics reveal the molecular, cellular and spatial bone marrow niche organization”, Nature Cell Biology, doi: 10.1038/s41556-019-0439-6 


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