Register for updates

 
 

Medicine & Health
RSS Feed
Genetically Encoded Sensor Isolates Hidden Leukemic Stem Cells
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 9:00:00 AM

Cells express surface markers that help them escape most targeted therapies, TAU researchers say

All stem cells can multiply, proliferate and differentiate. Because of these qualities, leukemic stem cells are the most malignant of all leukemic cells. Understanding how leukemic stem cells are regulated has become an important area of cancer research.

A team of Tel Aviv University researchers have now devised a novel biosensor that can isolate and target leukemic stem cells. The research team, led by Dr. Michael Milyavsky of the Department of Pathology at TAU's Sackler School of Medicine, discuss their unique genetically encoded sensor and its ability to identify, isolate and characterize leukemic stem cells in a study published on January 31 in Leukemia.

"The major reason for the dismal survival rate in blood cancers is the inherent resistance of leukemic stem cells to therapy," Dr. Milyavsky says. "But only a minor fraction of leukemic cells have high regenerative potential, and it is this regeneration that results in disease relapse. A lack of tools to specifically isolate leukemic stem cells has precluded the comprehensive study and specific targeting of these stem cells until now."

Until recently, cancer researchers used markers on the surface of the cell to distinguish leukemic stem cells from the bulk of cancer cells, with only limited success. "There are hidden cancer stem cells that express differentiated surface markers despite their stem cell function. This permits those cells to escape targeted therapies," Dr. Milyavsky explains. "By labeling leukemia cells on the basis of their stem character alone, our sensor manages to overcome surface marker-based issues.

"We believe that our biosensor can provide a prototype for precision oncology efforts to target patient-specific leukemic stem cells to fight this deadly disease."

The scientists searched genomic databases for "enhancers," the specific regulatory regions of the genome that are particularly active in stem cells. Then they harnessed genome engineering to develop a sensor composed of a stem cell active enhancer fused with a fluorescence gene that labels the cells in which the enhancer is active.

The scientists were also able to demonstrate that sensor-positive leukemia stem cells are sensitive to a known and inexpensive cancer drug called 4-HPR (fenretinide), providing a novel biomarker for patients who can potentially benefit from this drug.

"Using this sensor, we can perform personalized medicine oriented to drug screens by barcoding a patient's own leukemia cells to find the best combination of drugs that will be able to target both leukemia in bulk as well as leukemia stem cells inside it," Dr. Milyavsky concludes. "We're also interested in developing killer genes that will eradicate specific leukemia stem cells in which our sensor is active."

The researchers are now investigating those genes that are active in leukemic stem cells in the hope finding druggable targets.




Latest News

Haylee Zirman Joins AFTAU as Senior Director for the Northeast Region

Former Hillel and UJA development executive brings successful experience in the New York Jewish philanthropic community.

Study Reveals That Humans Migrated from Europe to the Levant 40,000 Years Ago

Discovery of teeth in Manot Cave sheds light on a population known for its cultural contributions, TAU researchers say.

Kelly Grunther Named Vice President, Marketing and Communications, of AFTAU

Accomplished public relations executive has extensive experience in both private and public sectors.

Ronit Sharir Joins AFTAU as National Director of Alumni Affairs

TAU graduate brings experience as a passionate networker and community manager.

Karen P. Marcus Joins AFTAU as Senior Director for the Southeast Region

Passionate advocate for Israel brings leadership experience and talent for collaboration to the position.

Study Finds Prehistoric Humans Ate Bone Marrow Like Canned Soup 400,000 Years Ago

Bone and skin preserved the nutritious marrow for later consumption, TAU researchers say.

TAU and Ichilov Researchers Develop Innovative Treatment for Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

Adolescents and young adults with the inherited disorder bear a high risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Engineered T Cells May Be Harnessed to Kill Solid Tumor Cells

Novel immunotherapy extends therapy now used in fighting leukemia, TAU researchers say.

Researchers Discover How a Protein Connecting Calcium and Plant Hormone Regulates Plant Growth

Mechanism enables plants to adapt their development to their environment, TAU researchers say.

LocalTAU Top Scientists Move Closer to Securing Pilot Program in Miami

Fellows from competition return to Miami to present at marine health summit and participate in high-level meetings.

contentSecondary
c

© 2019 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10006 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University