Mount Sinai Researchers Discover Genetic Origins of Myelodysplastic Syndrome Using Stem Cells
Findings Shed Light on the Development of Blood Cancers
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)—adult cells reprogrammed back to an embryonic stem cell-like state—may better model the genetic contributions patient's particular disease. In a process called cellular reprogramming, researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have taken mature blood cells from patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and reprogramed them back into iPSCs to study the genetic origins of this rare blood cancer. The results appear in an upcoming issue of Nature Biotechnology.
In MDS, genetic mutations in the bone marrow stem cell cause the number and quality of blood-forming cells to decline irreversibly, further impairing blood production. Patients with MDS can develop severe anemia and in some cases leukemia also known as AML. But which genetic mutations are the critical ones causing this disease?
In this study, researchers took cells from patients with blood cancer MDS and turned them into stem cells to study the deletions of human chromosome 7 often associated with this disease.
“With this approach, we were able to pinpoint a region on chromosome 7 that is critical and were able to identify candidate genes residing there that may cause this disease,” said lead researcher Eirini Papapetrou, MD, PhD, Department of Oncological Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Chromosomal deletions are difficult to study with existing tools because they contain a large number of genes, making it hard to pinpoint the critical ones causing cancer. Chromosome 7 deletion is a characteristic cellular abnormality in MDS and is well-recognized for decades as a marker of unfavorable prognosis. However, the role of this deletion in the development of the disease remained unclear going into this study.
Understanding the role of specific chromosomal deletions in cancers requires determining if a deletion has observable consequences as well as identifying which specific genetic elements are critically lost. Researchers used cellular reprogramming and genome engineering to dissect the loss of chromosome 7. The methods used in this study for engineering deletions can enable studies of the consequences of alterations in genes in human cells.
“Genetic engineering of human stem cells has not been used for disease-associated genomic deletions,” said Dr. Papapetrou. “This work sheds new light on how blood cancer develops and also provides a new approach that can be used to study chromosomal deletions associated with a variety of human cancers, neurological and developmental diseases.”
Reprogramming MDS cells could provide a powerful tool to dissect the architecture and evolution of this disease and to link the genetic make-up of MDS cells to characteristics and traits of these cells. Further dissecting the MDS stem cells at the molecular level could provide insights into the origins and development of MDS and other blood cancers. Moreover, this work could provide a platform to test and discover new treatments for these diseases.
This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Society of Hematology, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation, the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the University of Washington Royalty Research Fund, and a John H. Tietze Stem Cell Scientist Award.
About the Tisch Cancer Institute
The Tisch Cancer Institute (TCI) is a world-class translational cancer institute established in December 2007. TCI has recruited more than 30 acclaimed physicians and researchers specializing in basic research, clinical research, and population science; built outstanding programs in solid tumor oncology; enhanced existing robust programs in hematological malignancies; and advanced the study of cancer immunology and vaccine therapy. The completion of the Leon and Norma Hess Center for Science and Medicine in 2012 is enabling the recruitment of up to 20 additional cancer researchers on two full research floors, with 48,000 square feet of space dedicated to cancer research.
To learn more about clinical trials at Mount Sinai, visit http://icahn.mssm.edu/research/clinical-trials.
About Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health system has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services – from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.
The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12-minority-owned free-standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.