Birth of embryonic stem cells is imaged

Feb. 17, 2010 at 3:52 PM

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. biologists say they have identified the specific region in vertebrates where adult blood stem cells arise during embryonic development.

University of California-San Diego scientists say their finding -- recorded in time-lapse imaging involving zebrafish -- is a critical first step in developing safer and more effective stem cell therapies for such diseases as leukemia, multiple myeloma and anemia.

They said current transplantation therapies rely on the infusion of donor stem cells into a patient's bone marrow to generate new, healthy blood cells. But they said that procedure can result in fatal complications. The scientists said one way of circumventing that problem would be to generate hematopoietic, or blood-producing, stem cells using a patient's own precursor cells.

"If we could generate healthy (hematopoietic stem cells) from patients and transplant them back into their own bone marrow, it would eliminate many complications," said Assistant Professor David Traver, who led the research. "Our findings are an important step toward this goal because they provide a better understanding of how … the cell type responsible for the clinical benefits of bone marrow transplants are first specified during development."

The study appears in the early online issue of the journal Nature.

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