Researchers in Switzerland have engineered an artificial tissue in which human blood stem cells continue to function for several days.
The tissue, developed by scientists from the University of Basel, University Hospital Basel, and the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETHZ), mimics some of the complex biological properties of natural bone marrow niches.
Their findings external linkwere reported in the scientific journal PNAS.
Billions of blood cells are produced every day in human bone marrow. This constant supply is ensured by blood stem cells located in special niches within the marrow. These stem cells can multiply and mature into red and white blood cells, which then leave the bone marrow and enter the bloodstream.
For several years, researchers have been trying to reproduce natural bone marrow in the laboratory to better understand the mechanisms of blood formation and to develop new therapies – such as for the treatment of leukemia. However, this has proven to be extremely difficult because in conventional in vitro models the blood stem cells lose their ability to multiply and to differentiate into different types of blood cells.
The team now hope their new technique can be used to produce tailor-made solutions and further research possibilities.
“We could use bone and bone marrow cells from patients to create an in vitro model of blood diseases such as leukemia, for example. Importantly, we could do this in an environment that consists exclusively of human cells and which incorporates conditions tailored to the specific individual,” explains Professor Ivan Martin from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel.