Obesity Influences Hematopoietic Stem Cell Health

According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, obesity affects the long-term health of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The researchers said their findings provide groundwork for investigating how lifestyle choices affect blood formation and may contribute to the development of blood cancers.

Investigators at the Cincinnati Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute found that obesity-related stresses alter the cellular architecture of the HSC compartment and reduce its long-term functional fitness. These alterations appear to be linked to overexpression of the transcription factor Gfi1 (a regulatory gene). In genetic models of obese mice, these effects were progressive and some of the manifestations persisted after the animals’ weight normalized through researcher-implemented dietary controls.

“There is now an understanding that the blood stem cell compartment is made up of numerous cell subsets,” said principal investigator Damien Reynaud, PhD. “Keeping this compartment healthy is essential to human health. This includes maintaining the diverse pool of HSCs needed to produce blood cells the body needs to function properly.”

He added, “We want to better understand the molecular alterations in obesity to predict potential risks associated with the therapeutic use of stem cells isolated from obese donors.”

Sources: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center press release, December 27, 2017; Lee JM, Govindarajah V, Goddard B, et al. Obesity alters the long-term fitness of the hematopoietic stem cell compartment through modulation of Gfi1 expression. J Exp Med. 2017 December 27. [Epub ahead of print]