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Archive - Feb 2011

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February 28th

Stem Cell Study Shows Link Between Rare Lung Disease and Blood Cell Abnormalities

Results from a recent study have revealed a close relationship between pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)—a rare and deadly disease characterized by exceedingly high blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood from the heart to the lungs—and abnormalities of the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow (known as myeloid abnormalities). The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Vanderbilt University, showed that blood progenitor cells (cells that are capable of forming white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets in the bone marrow and are reported to affect blood vessel formation), are increased in the bone marrow, blood, and lungs of patients with PAH. These findings suggest that the disease processes in the bone marrow and the lungs are related. “This research pieces together a number of previous studies and observations suggesting a very close relationship between PAH and underlying bone marrow abnormalities,” said Dr. Serpil Erzurum, a co-author of the study and Chair of the Department of Pathobiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “Our study honed in on the stem cells involved in blood vessel maintenance to identify factors that might be involved in bone marrow stem cell abnormalities as well as progressive arterial disease.”

Compound Studied in Birth Defects May Be Useful Against Cancer

A compound being studied in the investigation of intestinal birth defects may prove useful in fighting cancer, according to the results of a recent study published in the February 25 issue of Chemistry & Biology. During the screening of chemical compounds created by North Carolina State chemist Dr. Alex Deiters, developmental biologist Dr. Nanette Nascone-Yoder found one of particular interest to her research: a compound that induced heterotaxia, a disordering or mirror-image “flipping” of internal organs, in the frog embryos she was studying. Dr. Nascone-Yoder is particularly interested in the genetic processes involved in proper formation of the gut tube, which later becomes the intestinal tract. “For the intestinal tract to form properly, it has to develop asymmetrically. This compound disrupts asymmetry, so it could be quite useful in helping us to determine when and where intestinal development goes wrong in embryos,” Dr. Nascone-Yoder said. But the compound, dubbed “heterotaxin” by the researchers, had effects beyond just inducing heterotaxia. “We also noticed that the compound prevents normal blood-vessel formation and prevents cells from migrating by increasing cellular adhesion – basically, the cells are stuck together and can’t move.”