Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a human blood cell that impersonates the great-grandparent of all the cells of the blood.
The researchers believed that the finding could lead to new treatments for blood cancers and other blood diseases.
The cell, called the multipotent progenitor, is considered as the first offspring of the blood-forming stem cell that exist in the bone marrow and which give rise to all cells of the blood.
The cell is also assumed to increase the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia when mutated.
Irving Weissman, MD, director of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine separated the cell from the mice and identified each cell in the mouse blood family tree.
He said that by comparing leukemic stem cell to progenitor cell the difference that could be a target for leukemia treatments could be found.
"We can compare the leukemic stem cell to this progenitor cell and from that find out what makes the leukemic stem cell different," said Weissman.
He found that the progression went from the stem cell through the progenitor cell through progressively more specialized cells, ending up with the red blood cells, platelets and immune cells that make up the bulk of the blood.
However, Indian researcher Ravindra Majeti, an instructor in haematology and the co lead author said that studies in mice can never be a perfect substitute for understanding those same cells in humans.
Majeti along with Christopher Park, MD, PhD, an instructor in pathology, isolated the human progenitor cell by grouping human blood cells according to proteins on their cell surface.
He found the pool of cells that could form all the final cells of the blood lacked the ability to constantly renew their own supplies - a trait that is unique to the stem cell.
These characteristics are distinguish the mouse progenitor cell, and, they thought, would likely be shared by the human equivalent.
According to Majeti, progenitor cell lies at the heart of the leukemia and must be destroyed in order to cure the disease.
This cell could also be used in bone marrow transplantation.
The study will be published in the Dec. 13 issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell.