This blood cancer discovery highlights a new approach for investigating blood cancers and bone marrow disorders. MPNs or myeloproliferative neoplasms are blood cancers in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells, platelets or white blood cells. Currently, there are limited models available to understand the development and response to treatments of both normal and cancerous blood cells in the human bone marrow.
The research team has developed a novel method for growing organoids from stem cells that resemble the bone marrow, capturing both healthy and cancerous blood cells. This improved model will enable researchers to gain a more precise understanding of blood cancers and ultimately lead to the discovery of better treatments for these diseases.
Dr. Abdullah Khan, a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, said: “Remarkably, we found that the cells in their bone marrow organoids resemble real bone marrow cells not just in terms of their activity and function, but also in their architectural relationships – the cell types ‘self-organize’ and arrange themselves within the organoids just like they do in human bone marrow in the body.”
This realistic architecture allowed the team to examine how the cells in the bone marrow work together to maintain normal blood cell production, and how this process is disrupted in bone marrow fibrosis (myelofibrosis). In myelofibrosis, scar tissue accumulates in the bone marrow, leading to bone marrow failure.
The senior author of the study, Professor Bethan Psaila, is a physician specializing in hematology and a Research Group Leader at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford. She said, “To properly understand how and why blood cancers develop, we need to use experimental systems that closely resemble how real human bone marrow works, which we haven’t really had before. It’s really exciting to now have this terrific system, as finally, we are able to study cancer directly using cells from our patients, rather than relying on animal models or other simpler systems that do not properly show us how the cancer is developing in the bone marrow in actual patients.”
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