Stem Cell Discoveries Could Improve Cancer Treatment

Recent discoveries made by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center may help make cancer treatment more efficient and shorten the time people need in order to recover from chemotherapy and radiation.

First Study: Syndecan-2 Protein

In the first study published in the journal Blood, researchers discovered a protein that is expressed by blood stem cells that could help in identifying, studying, and deploying the cells for treatments. The protein name is syndecan-2, which can identify primitive blood stem cells and regulate stem cell function.

These blood stem cells are found in small quantities in the bone marrow and peripheral blood, and they can produce all blood and immune cells in the body. The problem that the researchers face is that hematopoietic stem cells make up less than 0.01% of cells in the bone marrow and peripheral blood. 

The researchers found that the protein “syndecan-2” plays an important role in how hematopoietic stem cells reproduce. They also found that after radiation in mice, when stem cells that express syndecan-2 were transplanted, their cells repopulated, which didn’t happen when stem cells lacking syndecan-2 were transplanted, cells stopped replicating. This is important because by transplanting only cells expressing the protein, it may be possible to make stem cell transplant more efficient and less toxic.

Second Study: How 

In the second study published in the journal Nature Communications, Chute and colleagues revealed a mechanism through which the blood vessels in the bone marrow respond to injury, which includes chemotherapy and radiation.

Normally when a person receives chemotherapy or radiation their blood cell counts decrease dramatically, and it takes weeks for them to return to normal levels. The research team found that when mice receive radiation treatment, the cells that line the inner walls of blood vessels in the bone marrow produce a protein called semaphorin 3A, which activates a protein called neuropilin 1 and tells it to kill damaged blood vessels in the bone marrow. 

They were able to block the production of both proteins, after which the bone marrow vasculature regenerated following radiation faster and blood counts increased in just a week, instead of several weeks, which could become really important if translated into a human model, because people could recover quicker from these type of medical procedures.


Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “Stem cell discoveries hold potential to improve cancer treatment: Findings could lead to new ways to fight disease and help patients recover faster.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 2022.

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