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Jan. 30, 2024 |  By: Mark Moran - Public News Service

ISU stem-cell research aims to end bone-marrow transplants


By Mark Moran - Public News Service

Researchers at Iowa State University are using stem cells from a person's blood to treat certain types of cancer. Their work could mean the end of bone-marrow transplants.

The research boils down to taking the next step in personalized medicine.

Researchers draw blood from a patient's body, grow new stem cells in the lab - then use blood containing the new stem cells to attack blood diseases, like leukemia, in that patient.

ISU Assistant Professor of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology - Raquel Espin Palazon - said this research could end the need for bone-marrow transplants, which can be lethal 60% of the time because of what's known as "graft-versus-host disease."

"It's not them, obviously because it came from another person," said Espin Palazon, "and then, it's just going to attack the tissues of the patient. "

Federal data show right now, there are 18,000 people in the U.S. suffering from blood diseases which can only be treated with bone-marrow transplants.

She added that it's incredibly complex to get a handle on blood-borne diseases, mostly because the body generates as many as 200 billion new red blood cells every day.

So, Espin Palazon said researchers are turning to the petri dish to create stem cells in the 'embryonic' condition - their natural state, before the patient became sick - and using them to treat disease.

"Naturally, how can we recreate that in the dish," said Espin Palazon, "so that we can make blood stem cells from patients?"

Espin Palazon said researchers will eventually be able to turn on critical "switches" in the stem cells that could make them even more effective in treating disease.