"What we know from the clinic is that when people have a hematopoietic injury, such as being treated with chemotherapy, it's important for their stem cells to respond quickly to replace what's lost," says postdoctoral fellow Teresa Bowman, Ph.D. But, she adds, "There's huge variation between people, and it's largely unexplored why."
Bowman, who works with Leonard Zon, M.D., at the Boston Children's Hospital, is exploring the genetic basis underlying the differences between individuals, using zebrafish as a model system.
She observed that two common strains of zebrafish recover from radiation exposure at very different rates. "This is a great model for what we know to be true in humans, that one group responds slowly and one group recovers faster. We can use this to look at the genetic basis of this difference," Dr. Bowman says.
By inter-breeding the two strains of fish, she can correlate the speed of response in the offspring with the gene variants inherited from each parent strain. To date, she has identified three regions in the genome that seem to be linked with the speed of hematopoietic recovery.
It is likely that there are multiple genes involved, and she is now planning a whole-genome sequencing project to identify additional sites and hone in on the individual genes underlying naturally occurring variation in hematopoietic regeneration processes. Such genes may provide therapeutic targets for boosting recovery following chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
|Contact: Phyllis Edelman|
Genetics Society of America