Tag Archives: CalTech

A Changing View of Bone Marrow Cells

Caltech researchers show that the cells are actively involved in sensing infection.

RESEARCHERS SEPARATE BLOOD STEM CELLS FROM OTHER BONE MARROW CELLS AND LOAD THEM ONTO A NEW MICROFLUIDIC CHIP. FLUORESCENT SIGNALS INDICATE THE PRESENCE OF SECRETED PROTEINS WITH ONE "BARCODE" REPRESENTING EACH CELL.

RESEARCHERS SEPARATE BLOOD STEM CELLS FROM OTHER BONE MARROW CELLS AND LOAD THEM ONTO A NEW MICROFLUIDIC CHIP. FLUORESCENT SIGNALS INDICATE THE PRESENCE OF SECRETED PROTEINS WITH ONE “BARCODE” REPRESENTING EACH CELL.

In the battle against infection, immune cells are the body’s offense and defense—some cells go on the attack while others block invading pathogens. It has long been known that a population of blood stem cells that resides in the bone marrow generates all of these immune cells. But most scientists have believed that blood stem cells participate in battles against infection in a delayed way, replenishing immune cells on the front line only after they become depleted.

Now, using a novel microfluidic technique, researchers at Caltech have shown that these stem cells might be more actively involved, sensing danger signals directly and quickly producing new immune cells to join the fight.

“It has been most people’s belief that the bone marrow has the function of making these cells but that the response to infection is something that happens locally, at the infection site,” says David Baltimore, president emeritus and the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech. “We’ve shown that these bone marrow cells themselves are sensitive to infection-related molecules and that they respond very rapidly. So the bone marrow is actually set up to respond to infection.”