Normal and abnormal formation of blood cells

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Sten Eirik Waelgaard Jacobsen, Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, and the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, researches how bone marrow stem cells produce blood cells. His research involves exploring the mechanisms and regulation of healthy blood formation and the causes of diseases of the blood, such as leukaemia.

Every second, millions of new blood cells are created by the stem cells in our bone marrow. A single stem call can both produce all types of blood cell and replicate itself into new stem cells. Professor Sten Eirik W. Jacobsen researches into this process.

“The production of blood cells is regulated by the body’s needs,” he says. “For example, more white blood cells are formed in the presence of an infection. In the past twenty years we’ve learnt a great deal about how this regulation works, but there are still gaps in our knowledge. We know about some of the cells and substances involved, but it’s still unclear how they interact and function.”

An important aspect of Jacobsen’s research is understanding what malfunction disrupts the formation of blood so that blood cancer develops. He and his team have the crucial task of identifying the cells that cause leukaemia and the molecular mechanisms that result in the disease.

“My hope is that what we learn from our research will eventually give rise to leukaemia treatments that are more effective and less physically intrusive than those currently available,” he says. “Greater knowledge of the normal blood formation process can also lead to better treatments for patients with defective blood formation.”

For the past five years, Professor Jacobsen has been a part-time visiting professor at KI and has helped to establish the new Centre for Haematology and Regenerative Medicine (HERM). As a newly appointed full-time professor, he is also looking forward to setting up collaborations with stem cell researchers in other departments.

Text: Anders Nilsson, first published in "From Cell to Society" 2015. Translation: Neil Betteridge.


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