A team of researchers from Albert Einstein School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that nociceptive nerves found in the bone marrow help regulate the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells. In his paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their work in which they tried to learn more about the nociceptive nerves found in the bone marrow. Anastasia Tikhonova and Iannis Aifantis with the University Health Network, Toronto and the Grossman University School of Medicine in New York, published an article News and Views on the work of researchers in the same issue of the journal.
As observed by Tikhonov and Aifantis, hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) originate from the bone marrow – they grow into the blood and immune cells, which penetrate the bloodstream through a process called hematopoiesis. Prior to mobilization, HSCs are located in special niches within the bone marrow – they are mobilized only when needed. In people being treated for leukemia and other types of blood cancer, HSCs are collected from the bone marrow using special drugs and stored for the duration of chemotherapy. HSCs are then replaced so that they can make up for lost immune cells. Unfortunately, for some people, collecting HSCs can be problematic because HSCs refuse to be lured out of their niches. In this new effort, researchers studied the nociceptive nerves in the bone marrow, hoping to find out why they exist in the bone marrow – in other parts of the body, such as the skin, they play a role in the sensation of pain. The researchers found that they play a role in the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells.
As part of their work, the researchers used immunofluorescent imaging to study nerve cells in the bone marrow of mice and found that most of them were nociceptive nerves. This led them to wonder if these nerves played a role in the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells. To find out if it was possible, they used drugs and genetic engineering to disable them in two ways. They found that this had no effect on HSC maintenance, but resulted in a dramatically reduced mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells. The researchers then tried to give the mice drugs that increase the production of neurotransmitters associated with nociceptive nerves and found that this also increased the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells. Intriguers also gave mice capsaicin, a component of chili peppers, and found that it also increased the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells.
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Xin Gao et al. Nociceptive nerves regulate the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-020-03057-y
Anastasia N. Tikhonova et al. Pain-sensing neurons mobilize blood stem cells from the bone marrow, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / d41586-020-03577-7
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