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Bone Marrow Stem Cells Identified

September 2, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Researchers have found a way to identify and isolate special stem cells in the bone marrow, a development that could lead to new treatments for blood diseases.

Scientists at Jefferson Medical College report on Friday in the journal Science that hematopoietic stem cells have a protein marker, called KDR, that can be used as sort of a beacon to isolate them from other, similar-looking cells.

The stem cells are made in the bone marrow. They can develop into any kind of blood cell and can reproduce endlessly.

Researchers believe if the stem cell can be isolated and cultured in the laboratory, it could be used to grow red, white and platelet blood cells, all of which have important medical applications. For instance, it is believed the stem cell could be used to produce blood for transfusions or cells for bone marrow transplants.

But the stem cells are rare, making up only one of every 100,000 cells in the bone marrow. Researchers have had trouble isolating them from other bone marrow cells that they closely resemble.

Now the technique developed by a Jefferson team led by Dr. Cesare Peschle may have solved that problem.

The researchers have found an antibody that they can use to separate the valuable stem cells from the other cells in the bone marrow. Repeated use of the technique allows the stem cells to be concentrated into useful numbers, the researchers report.

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