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‘Search and destroy’: Precision stem cell treatments could be safer against blood cancers

| | December 9, 2019

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Scientists are experimenting with ways to selectively target the body’s blood-making cells for destruction. Early studies in animals and people suggest that the approach could make blood stem-cell transplants — powerful but dangerous procedures that are used mainly to treat blood cancers — safer, and thereby broaden their use. The studies come as evidence piles up that such transplants can also treat some autoimmune disorders and genetic diseases.

Blood stem-cell transplants work by replacing defective blood-making cells — which can give rise to blood cancer as well as genetic and autoimmune diseases — with healthy ones taken either from a donor or from the patient themselves.

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One way to think about stem-cell transplants is to imagine the bone marrow as a hotel whose owner wants to evict some guests, says Jens-Peter Volkmer, vice-president of research at Forty Seven, a biotechnology company in Menlo Park, California. Current treatments blow up the whole hotel, he says: “Then everybody’s dead, including all of these critical components that you need to protect the patient from infection.”

The latest approaches allow the owner to tell specific guests to leave — by targeting sets of cells in the bone marrow, rather than killing them all, Volkmer says.

Read full, original post: Targeted stem-cell attack could make transplants safer

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