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The search for a cure for blood cancers has received a boost with new research by Singapore scientists shedding light on how stem cells can be more effectively used to treat diseases such as leukaemia.
Wednesday, 23 May 2018
The five researchers are from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Duke-NUS Medical School, and the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
At a media briefing on Monday, the team said it discovered a laboratory-synthesised chemical substance that can be used to increase the number of stem cells harvested from umbilical cords.
It said this will help overcome a current challenge of cell levels being too low to help patients recover quickly.
This need for a quick recovery is to minimise the risk of bacterial, fungi or viral infections, said Associate Professor William Hwang, medical director of the National Cancer Centre Singapore, one of the researchers involved.
In general, stem cells are “elastic” cells. They are capable of regenerating and differentiating into various cell types in a person’s body.
This potential of stem cells, which can last the lifetime of a patient, to form new cells that can replace degenerated ones has made stem cell therapy the subject of intense medical research.
But there are many different types of stem cells in the body, some more “elastic” than others. When stem cells differentiate, they become progenitor cells, which are more specialised and have a shorter lifespan.
Such intermediary cells include those found in the bone marrow or peripheral blood. They are considered haematopoietic (blood-forming) progenitor cells.
These haematopoietic progenitor cells are slightly more specific, in that they regenerate to form cells that constitute blood – red blood cells, platelets and cells of the immune system. They also last for a shorter period of time. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network