UVa. Researchers Discover Cause of an Aggressive Leukemia

March 6, 2014

Researchers at the University of Virginia say they've discovered the cause of a rare type of aggressive leukemia, and they've done it by studying the bone marrow of mice.

Researchers wanted to look into what causes B-cell leukemia, because they've found that the disease is more resilient than other types of leukemia they've studied.

They started looking at cells in the kidney that produce renin, which typically regulates blood pressure. The researchers found that there are renin cells in bone marrow as well, and that when you remove certain molecules from those cells, the subject tends to develop leukemia.

"If you delete the same genes in other cell types in the bone marrow, those cells do not develop leukemia,” UVa. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Brian Belya, MD said. “So we believe that the renin cell may be at at-risk population for developing leukemia, and that might have important implications for patients developing leukemia."

Scientists have been working for about three years in this project. They hope to next identify other cells that are at an increased risk for leukemia.

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