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Epigenetics Also Affects Blood Formation, Researchers Find

Update Date: Aug 11, 2014 12:52 PM EDT

It is a known fact that blood stem cells have the potential to turn into any type of blood cell. However, it is unclear whether they will turn into oxygen-carrying red blood cells or white blood cells.  

A new research has started to reshape the conventional understanding of the way blood stem cell fate decisions are controlled. 

According to the study, the process of differentiation is carried out by a cascade of events in which specific genes are turned "on" and "off" in a highly regulated and accurate order. The DNA itself controls the instruction of the process in short regulatory sequences, the study found. 

According to researchers, a better understanding of epigenetic mechanisms of such processes could lead to deciphering of the molecular mechanisms of many diseases, including immunological disorders, anemia, leukemia, etc. 

The study leveraged a newly developed technique for epigenetic profiling which helped them sample and analyze just a handful of cells. 

"This changes our whole understanding of the process of blood stem cell fate decisions," said David Lara-Astiaso of the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department, in the press release "suggesting that the process is more dynamic and flexible than previously thought."

"This research creates a lot of excitement in the field, as it sets the groundwork to study these regulatory elements in humans," added  Assaf Weiner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

The study has been published in the journal Science

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