Stem-cell drug could give lifeline to leukaemia sufferers
A DRUG that triggers the production of stem cells could help rebuild the blood of leukaemia patients, say researchers.
The compound, called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), resupplies the bone marrow with fast-acting stem cells that develop into white and red blood cells.
Scientists hope it will provide a lifeline for patients who have been deprived of blood cells, resulting in anaemia and recurrent infections because of poor immunity.
In leukaemia patients, radiation and chemotherapy used to kill the cancer wipes out blood cell production in the bone marrow.
Other patients with infections or genetic blood disorders can also suffer from too few or abnormal bone-marrow cells.
Stem-cell transplants from healthy donors can restore the marrow's ability to supply blood cells.
But while they are recovering, typically over a period of about six weeks, patients may still be at risk from having too few white and red cells.
They are also prone to internal bleeding because of a lack of platelets, which are also made in the marrow.
The research, which was conducted on mice, showed that prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) has the potential to speed up bone-marrow recovery dramatically by increasing numbers of fast-acting stem cells.
Study leader Dr Laura Calvi, of the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York state, said: "Our results show that PGE2 more quickly restores blood cell production, and continues to do so for the exact period, six to eight weeks, when patients are most at risk.
"PGE2 treatment could represent a precise way to accelerate recovery from bone marrow injury."
The research is reported today in the journal Blood.
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