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Publications of the Week

Single-Cell Analysis Identifies a CD33+ Subset of Human Cord Blood Cells with High Regenerative Potential

By June 15, 2018June 18th, 2018No Comments

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 This week we profile a recent publication in Nature Cell Biology from Dr. Connie Eaves (pictured above),
Dr. David Knapp (pictured below), and Colin Hammond at the BC Cancer Agency.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

The Eaves lab is focused on understanding how normal human blood stem cells work, and how the mechanisms that control them might be hijacked during cancer formation. This work has contributed to a foundational understanding of what blood stem cells actually are and how they work. Importantly, Connie’s work has shown that blood stem cells, much like snowflakes, despite having similarities in appearances and properties, are each unique. This understanding lays the foundations for new ways to grow blood stem cells for therapy, and insight into how to treat them when they go wrong.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

In this publication we create functional and molecular maps of the blood stem cell compartment in human  umbilical cord blood samples. By overlaying these maps using common landmarks, we were able to identify properties which are associated with the core feature of ‘stemness’; ie, the ability to regenerate the blood system. Interestingly, these maps showed that blood stem cells with different properties were more like a swarm than a series of distinct groups. This finding suggests an alternative mechanism of control than the standard dogma and provides a molecular grounding for the observed differences in the population. Finally, we identified the surface marker CD33 on the most highly regenerative human stem cell population. This marker is mainly thought to be only on mature myeloid cells and myeloid leukaemia cells. The expression of CD33 on the most potent blood stem cells thus has important implications for proposed strategies to target it for immunotherapy.

What are the next steps for this research?

It remains unclear exactly how the properties of these highly regenerative human blood stem cells are controlled and how the properties of these cells may be altered through normal human aging. On-going studies in the Eaves lab aim to identify and characterize adult blood stem cells to gain insight into age-related changes in the blood forming system and how these may be related to the development of blood cancers

This research was funded by:

This work was supported by a Terry Fox Foundation New Frontiers Program Project, a Stem Cell Network of Centres of Excellence grant, and grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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