DEC 27, 2017 8:13 AM PST

Obesity has a Lasting, Negative Impact on Blood-Making Cells

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Obesity has been associated with the onset of disease, and researchers have now found that the health of hematopoietic stem cells, which make blood, is negatively affected by obesity. Reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the study relied primarily on mouse models of genetically-induced obesity to demonstrate the long-term, harmful impact it has on the hematopoietic stem cell compartment. Our bodies rely on that compartment to generate blood.

In this microscopic image, bone marrow cells from a genetically modified obese mouse exhibit diminished cellularity and altered composition./ Credit: Cincinnati Children's

"There is now an understanding that the blood stem cell compartment is made up of numerous cell subsets," explained the principal investigator of the work, Damien Reynaud, Ph.D. "Keeping this compartment healthy is essential to human health. This includes maintaining the diverse pool of blood-making stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells) needed to produce blood cells the body needs to function properly."

This microscopic image shows bone marrow cellularity and composition in a non-obese control mouse/ Credit: Cincinnati Children's

It seems that the stress of age and environmental factors can reduce diversity among the cells that synthesize our blood. Blood cell formation can then skew toward myeloid cells, which may increase the risk that cells can become pre-leukemic, suggested Reynaud and his collaborators.

The research team showed that the architecture of the hematopoietic stem cell compartment is changed by stress related to obesity, and the overall impact is a reduction in the functionality of the compartment. Tests in mice have indicated that these effects are progressive and cause dysfunction that can persist even when the weight of the animal returns to normal by dieting.

The scientists wanted to learn more about the mechanism underlying this phenomenon. They found it may be connected to the increased expression of the Gfi1 gene. The gene is a transcription factor, which regulates the expression of other genes. In the obese state, there are oxidative stresses in the body that drive increased expression of Gfi1. That in turn, results in lasting alterations in the hematopoietic stem cell compartment, and subsequent molecular disorders.

This research may lay the groundwork for showing how choices we make about diet and lifestyle can cause enduring impacts to the formation of blood and the risk of developing blood cancer. Importantly, hematopoietic stem cells are often used in therapeutics for leukemia and other diseases of the blood. This work indicates that obese people may not be the best donors of stem cells for use in these kinds of procedures.

"Little is known about how obesity in marrow donors could affect the quality of the hematopoietic stem cell compartment," Reynaud explained. "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: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Journal of Experimental Medicine

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 02, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Splice and Dice: Zeroing in on Rare Gene Variants in Alzheimer's
MAR 02, 2021
Splice and Dice: Zeroing in on Rare Gene Variants in Alzheimer's
DNA is the four-letter language that codes for genes, “paragraphs” of DNA information that carry specific in ...
MAR 08, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
A Slowdown in Cells' Protein Construction Drives Huntington's
MAR 08, 2021
A Slowdown in Cells' Protein Construction Drives Huntington's
Huntington's disease begins with symptoms like movement and balance problems, weakness, and behavioral disturbances, and ...
MAR 16, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
New Proteins Can Emerge From 'Nothing'
MAR 16, 2021
New Proteins Can Emerge From 'Nothing'
The genetic code is the basis for life, but in order for an organism to live and survive, it needs the proteins that the ...
MAR 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Understanding How Cold-Induced Tooth Pain Happens
MAR 28, 2021
Understanding How Cold-Induced Tooth Pain Happens
Our teeth do a lot of work, and they may become sensitive to cold as the gums erode due to aging or because they have an ...
APR 05, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Understanding Why Redheads Perceive Pain Differently
APR 05, 2021
Understanding Why Redheads Perceive Pain Differently
People with red hair, as well as some animals that have red fur, carry one variation of a gene called melanocortin 1 rec ...
MAY 06, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
There's More to Viral DNA Than ATGC
MAY 06, 2021
There's More to Viral DNA Than ATGC
Plants and animals have genomes made of four nucleotide bases, adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). ...
Loading Comments...