April 9, 2009

Scientists identify key leukemia gene

U.S.-led scientists say they have identified a gene that can protect against leukemia and other blood cancers, possibly paving the way for new therapies.

The University of California-San Francisco researchers said they discovered the JunB gene controls the rapid production and differentiation of stem cells that produce all blood cell types. Additionally, the scientists said they uncovered evidence that could lead to a protocol for bone marrow transplants that could boost the chance of a cure in some patients.

The researchers, led by Assistant Professor Emmanuelle Passegue, said their study demonstrates the JunB gene is at the center of a complex network of molecular and environmental signals that regulate the proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic stem cells -- multipotent, self-renewing cells that give rise to all blood cell types.

The research that included scientists from the University of California-Santa Cruz and the Institute for Experimental Medical Science at Sweden's Lund University is reported in the journal Cancer Cell.