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New finding may help patients bounce back from chemo

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The team, led by Jun Lu, assistant professor of genetics at the Yale Stem Cell Center and Yale Cancer Center, wanted to see how a genetic material called microRNAs affected the production of blood and the function of blood stem and progenitor cells, which help determine the type of blood cell created. Chemotherapy kills these types of progenitor cells, making it difficult for blood to regenerate.

While red blood cells can be replaced by transfusions, white blood cells and platelets often do not recover well, leaving cancer patients prone to infection and bleeding.

Lu’s research team analyzed large numbers of microRNAs in living mice, then identified several involved in blood formation. When they disabled one of these microRNAs, miR-150, they found that mice were able to more efficiently regenerate white cells and platelets depleted by chemotherapy.

Mice without this microRNA showed no ill health effects. Conversely, mice with active miR-150 had difficulty generating new blood cells.

“We hope that finding specific microRNAs involved in blood formation will provide us ways not only to help cancer patients survive chemotherapy, but to make chemotherapy more efficient,” Lu said.

The study appears in the Oct. 18 issue of Cell Reports.

Learn more:
Yale School of Medicine
Cell Reports