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Bone Marrow Backup System Identified

KANSAS CITY, KS (US), January 2019 — Blood-forming adult stem cells reside deep in the bone marrow and are responsible for regenerating the body’s blood supply, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In a study published online January 15 in Cell Reports, scientists from the laboratory of Linheng Li, Ph.D., at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and their collaborators investigated how these cells, despite being sensitive to DNA damage, manage to repopulate blood cells after chemotherapy or injury has depleted their numbers.

The researchers report that a subset of blood-forming, or hematopoietic, adult stem cells called “reserve” hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are resistant to chemotherapy. These reserve HSCs are located in a specialized niche, composed of cells on the inner bone surface expressing the molecule N-cadherin, in mouse bone marrow.

The finding advances the understanding of HSC biology and may open new avenues for treating blood diseases like leukemia and autoimmune disorders.


Co-existence of rHSCs and pHSCs in bone marrow with the latter sensitive to chemotherapy but the former surviving chemotherapy and restoring the HSC pool.  Image courtesy of Mark Miller.

Learn more:
DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.12.093