New system developed for efficiently cultivating blood stem cells in lab

A novel method for cultivating a large quantity of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) outside the human body has been devised by researchers at Japan’s University of Tsukuba.

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are undeveloped blood cells that can differentiate into any type of blood cell and are utilized to treat disorders where bone marrow is impaired, rendering it unable to produce healthy blood cells. Nevertheless, the extensive application of HSCs is hampered by challenges in cultivating and multiplying them beyond the confines of the body.

Scientists have developed a new method of culturing that allows for the prolonged growth of HSCs, overcoming previous obstacles in ex vivo cell expansion. Although human HSCs are commonly harvested from umbilical cord blood, they often fail to produce an adequate amount of cells for transplantation purposes. Prior efforts at expanding HSCs relied on signaling molecules and proteins, but these approaches only proved effective in the short term.

Scientists used a synthetic polymer to replace the protein albumin, which was previously used to stimulate HSC expansion. They found that this approach overcame the problem of variability between batches used in different experiments and prevented the negative effects of impurities that commonly arise.

In order to combat the problem of reduced activity in important signaling molecules known as PI3K and AKT during the application of this technique to human HSCs, scientists introduced certain chemicals that could activate these molecules. Moreover, they discovered that incorporating a receptor agonist chemical called butyzamide could effectively encourage cell proliferation, serving as a viable substitute for cytokines which had been frequently utilized previously.

By incorporating UM171 and a particular polymer, the scientists were able to enhance their findings by promoting the extended expansion of HSCs. Through RNA sequencing, they verified that this process had a positive impact on gene expression in each individual cell. Furthermore, when these expanded cells were transplanted into mice using their new culture system, there was successful engraftment and growth.

This newly established system provides a suitable alternative to systems using typical cytokine-containing media and may help advance various HSC-related therapeutics in clinical development, potentially saving lives.

University of Tsukuba

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