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Science 329 (5997): 1291-1292

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science


The Blood Stem Cell Holy Grail?

Guy Sauvageau1,2, and R. Keith Humphries3,4

Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation is one of the major medical discoveries of the 20th century. A recent worldwide survey indicated that in 2006 more than 50,000 HSC transplants were performed (1), saving tens of thousands of lives every year. Unfortunately, many patients in need of HSC transplantation are deprived of this life-saving procedure because of an insufficient number of stem cells in the graft, potentially leading to graft failure, a complication associated with a high mortality rate. This is a frequent problem in patients undergoing autologous (stem cells from one's own marrow) transplantation and in patients receiving an allogeneic (stem cells from a donor) transplant with HSCs derived from human cord blood. Recent clinical studies with cord blood grafts from different donors indicate that even a modest (two- to threefold) ex vivo expansion of HSCs would have a profound clinical impact. On page 1345 of this issue, Boitano et al. (2) report a major stride toward the goal of ex vivo expansion of human HSCs with their exciting discovery of a small molecule called StemRegenin1 (SR1) (see the figure).

1 Molecular Genetics of Stem Cells Laboratory, Institute of Research in Immunology and Cancer, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada.
2 Division of Hematology and Leukemia Cell Bank of Quebec, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Montreal, QC H1T 2M4, Canada.
3 Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Z 1L3, Canada.
4 Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1W5, Canada.

E-mail: guy.sauvageau{at}

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