A gene known to maintain cell-cycle stability by mediating oxidative stress is vital in the continuing production of adult stem cells, according to a study in the 21 October 2004 issue of Nature (Vol. 431, No. 7011, see pp. 997-1002). The 'ataxia telangiectasia mutated' (ATM) gene is known to activate a response to DNA damage. When it is inactivated the effects include immunodeficiency, premature ageing and a high incidence of lymphoma.
Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), or blood-forming cells, occur in bone marrow and are necessary for blood formation. Atsushi Hirao and colleagues demonstrate that ATM-deficient mice show progressive bone marrow failure and that this is due to the breakdown in HSC function. They further show that treatment with agents to restore ATM capacity prevents bone marrow failure.
Atsushi Hirao, (Keio University, Tokyo, Japan)
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