January 20, 2005

Spleen Surprise Source of Stem Cells

May hold pocket of primitive, embryonic cells, researchers discover

HealthDayNews -- The spleen may be a source of potential adult stem cells that contain a protein called Hox11, which is associated with embryonic development and limb regeneration in some animals, says a Massachusetts General Hospital study.

It was previously believed that Hox11 was present only during the embryonic development of mammals.

"There may be a previously undiscovered pocket of primitive stem cells in the spleen that are important for healing several types of damage or injury. If so, these cell could have much broader therapeutic applications than suggested by our earlier work," study author Dr. Denise Faustman, director of the hospital's Immunobiology Laboratory, said in a prepared statement.

About a year ago, the same team concluded that the spleen may be a source of adult stem cells able to regenerate the insulin-producing islets of the pancreas.

This new study supports the existence of those adult stem cells and also suggests the stem cells may be able to produce even more kinds of tissue.

The findings appear in the Jan. 19 issue of SAGE KE.

More information

Massachusetts General Hospital

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.