To clarify the defective erythropoiesis in eight patients with Diamond- Blackfan anemia, we studied their bone marrow response in vitro to recombinant human interleukin-3 (IL-3) and recombinant granulocyte- macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). In an erythropoietin- containing assay system, specimens from six of the eight patients yielded low numbers of erythroid colonies compared to control values, and in five of these no erythropoietin dose-response could be elicited. Addition of IL-3, GM-CSF or both to cultures from the six patients had no effect on CFU-E-derived colonies. In contrast, IL-3 but not GM-CSF induced a marked increase in the number (183%) and size of the BFU-E- derived colonies in five of the six cases and partially corrected the impaired dose-response to erythropoietin in four. Bone marrow from the other two patients yielded numbers of CFU-E and BFU-E colonies comparable to controls and manifested similar increments in colonies with increasing concentrations of erythropoietin. When IL-3 was added to these cultures, further increments were observed in the number and size of BFU-E colonies. We conclude that IL-3 enhanced the marrow erythropoiesis in most of the patients and exerted a corrective effect on the aberrant colony formation in the presence of erythropoietin. The data raise the possibility of IL-3 as a therapeutic agent in Diamond- Blackfan anemia.

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