The alpha-thalassemic mouse has a hereditary microcytic anemia, almost certainly has a shortened RBC life span, and is a potential candidate for cell replacement therapy. In a routine study of bone marrow repopulating capacity using hemoglobin as a cell marker, normal donor marrow cells, but not alpha-thalassemic donor marrow cells, completely replaced the host cells. Further analysis showed that at least 30 times more alpha-thalassemic cells were required to outcompete normal donor cells injected simultaneously. The results were more extreme then expected and suggested a defect in a stem cell population as well as in the RBCs. Evidence that the multipotent and erythroid-committed stem cells in alpha-thalassemic mice are not decreased was shown by CFU-S and CFU-E assays. The combined results indicate that the deletion expresses itself most conspicuously in the RBC population. Tests were also performed to analyze repopulation kinetics in the Hbath-J/+ mice. In unirradiated alpha-thalassemic hosts, the hemoglobin from a normal donor persisted but did not replace the host hemoglobin. Sublethally irradiated alpha-thalassemic hosts, on the other hand, were easily repopulated with normal cells. We conclude that the alpha-thalassemic mouse is a good model for cell replacement therapy.

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