Breakthrough reveals how a stem cell decides between two fates

March 29, 2019

Dr. Marjorie BrandDr. Marjorie Brand’s team discovered how a blood stem cell decides whether to become a red blood cell or a platelet-forming cell in a new study published in Cell Stem Cell. By using a technique that measures tiny amounts of proteins in individual cells, the team found that certain proteins are the “deciders” of cell fate.  One of these decider proteins pushes the stem cells to become a red blood cell while another pushes the cell to become a platelet-forming cell instead. Increasing the amount of one of these competing decider proteins is how the stem cell choses what cell it will become. This finding opens the way to design new strategies to increase red blood cell production in people with anemia. This discovery was possible because of single cell mass cytometry, a technique that is available to Ottawa researchers at as part of The Ottawa Hospital’s Proteomics Core Resource.

“Our bodies make 2.5 million red blood cells every second. Understanding what drives this process can help us find better treatments for blood diseases.”- Dr. Marjorie Brand, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa.

Reference: Cell Stem Cell

Authors: Carmen G. Palii, Qian Cheng, Mark A. Gillespie, Paul Shannon, Michalina Mazurczyk, Giorgio Napolitani, Nathan D. Price, Jeffrey A. Ranish, Edward Morrissey, Douglas R. Higgs, and Marjorie Brand

Funders: Dr. Brand’s research is possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Canada-UK Foundation.

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