Stimulatory sonic hedgehog
The cellular elements of blood, such as B cells or macrophages, are generated in the bone marrow. Stem cells, under the influence of various immune modulators, can develop into all the types of required blood cells and therefore function as the building blocks of the bone marrow. A pool of blood stem cells must be maintained in the bone marrow throughout life. Factors that regulate the maintenance of human stem cells are unknown.
In the February issue of Nature Immunology (Vol. 2, No. 2, 01 Feb 2001), scientists have identified a molecule that is involved in the regulation of the human stem cell pool. This molecule, called sonic hedgehog, was found to induce expansion of stem cell numbers. Currently, the number of therapeutic bone marrow transplants that are carried out for the treatment of cancers is increasing rapidly. Thus, the identification of factors such as sonic hedgehog, which can amplify the number of repopulating stem cells, could be important clinically, particularly in view of the shortage of bone marrow donors.
A News & Views was written on this paper by Leonard I. Zon of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Boston, MA.
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(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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