TORONTO — Stem cells from bone marrow have been helping people with diseases like leukemia to rebuild a healthy blood system for half a century. But now Canadian researchers have determined that not all stem cells are created equal — and that might lead to better bone marrow transplants for more patients.
Scientists at Hamilton’s McMaster University have discovered that stem cells located in bone marrow at the ends of bones are superior at regenerating blood cells, including immune system cells, than those found in the shafts of bones.
“They all do the job, but they’re a little bit different,” said principal researcher Mick Bhatia, scientific director of the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster.
“They have to regenerate the blood system, otherwise we can’t even consider them a stem cell,” said Bhatia, explaining that stem cells give rise to other cell types and are also capable of renewing themselves.
He likened these superior-performing stem cells, and their durability over time, to elite athletes.
“You can have someone who can run and get to the Olympics, but there are ones that run that speed for a lot longer and a lot faster,” he said. “It makes them all professional athletes, but there are different gradients.”
Bhatia said it turns out that what boosts their quality is what’s going on at the ends of bones, which supply what’s known as a niche, or home, for the regenerative cells.
Bone-making cells that make up this niche send chemical messages to the stem cells that allows them to perform differently from those in the middle of the bone.
“It’s not the athletes themselves, but the effect the arena has on them,” he said.
The full article is located at CTV News