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Biological Chemistry

Cord Blood Stem-Cell Transplant Booster

Researchers discover molecule that could help make umbilical cord blood more useful for bone marrow transplant patients

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
September 22, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 38

Scientists have identified another molecule that boosts the ability of umbilical cord blood to produce hematopoietic stem cells—cells that have the potential to become any type of blood cell in the body (Science 2014, DOI: 10.1126/science.1256337). With further research, the discovery could offer a solution for the 30 to 40% of people who need bone marrow transplants but are unable to find a matched donor. Transplanted stem cells from cord blood are readily accepted by people, but they’re not produced in a sufficient quantity to be useful in adults. Scientists have been searching for small molecules that boost cord blood stem-cell production in lab cell cultures. A Canadian and American team led by Guy Sauvageau of the University of Montreal now describes a pyrimidoindole called UM171, which they screened from a library of 5,280 compounds, that increases hematopoietic stem cells 13-fold in cord blood samples. UM171 also appears to increase production of stem-cell precursor cells more than a previously described cord blood booster named SR1. The researchers found that UM171 remains effective for up to 30 weeks when used in transplants in immunocompromised mice.


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