After the finding of a set of transcription factors capable of reprogram any somatic cell into an embryonic stem-like cell by Yamanaka's group a lot of effort has been put to differentiate and produce in-vitro engraftable cells that could replace and fix damaged tissues. One of the most attractive and promising fields is the differentiation towards blood, considering it is a tissue without a complex tridimensional structure and that the phenotypes of the different sublineages are already well characterized. Nonetheless, so far there are no reports of successful differentiation into blood progenitors which are able to completely recover functionally in vivo blood-depleted mice. We previously reported the differentiation from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) towards hematopoietic cells capable of distinguish into sub lineages in in vitro assays, while another group obtained blood precursors by transdifferentiation of fibroblasts; however a complete recovery of the hematopoietic lineages in vivo was not seen. Our hypothesis is that the gap missing in the current protocols to obtain repopulating blood stem cells can be filled by the microRNA profiling of Cord Blood (CB) progenitors, in order to find the key players in the maintenance of blood stemness. In particular, it has been shown that population with the highest capacity to be engrafted in mice is the CD34+/CD90+ from CB. Our preliminary results depict a set of miRNAs that are specifically overexpressed in the CD34+/CD90+ population from CB cells when compared against a less specific CD34+ population. These miRNAs are currently being tested as a tool to improve the efficiency of iPS differentiation and fibroblasts conversion towards blood progenitors by means of lentiviral infection of the miRNA precursors. Interestingly, we have found that these miRNAs have been previously reported to have a main role in the occurrence of Acute Myeloid Leukemia in humans and mice. These results led us to look for genes that are highly expressed in blood progenitors but also have been shown to be correlated with AML.As a safety study, we are currently evaluating the effect of overexpressing AML related factors (miRNAs and genes) when added to the established protocols to obtain blood progenitors from iPS and fibroblasts. Surprisingly, our initial results show that the overxpression of the above mentioned genes and miRNAs have an intrinsic potential to induce in vitro differentiation or conversion from iPS and fibroblasts towards blood progenitors.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.