New blood from stem cells

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Scientists have been able to grow large numbers of blood-forming stem cells in the lab using a simple ingredient found in glue. After injecting into mice, the cells started producing important elements of blood.

Indeed, “The finding is very unexpected and exciting,” says John Dick, a stem-cell biologist at the Prince Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada.

If the technique can be developed for human use, this method could help people with blood cancers such as leukaemia whose immune systems have been damaged by chemotherapy. Hence, this application could treat people with blood disorders with more safety and less risk.

Furthermore, scientists have been working for years to develop an approach to grow large numbers of ‘haematopoietic’ blood stem cells (HSCs) in the lab. These cells regenerate themselves and lead to blood formation.

Finally, stem-cell biologist Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who directs teams at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California, reports in Nature on 29 May how his team successfully engrafted HSCs in mice1. The team spread a cluster of mouse HSCs to almost 900 times its original level in just a month. Next they transplanted them back into a distinct group of mice, where they thrived, and developed into blood components. “This has been my life goal,” he says.