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“Rare cells capable of transforming into blood cancer”

Dysfunction involving an unusual type of thymocyte cell found in small amounts in every person may be the reason why some people develop a form of leukaemia called T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL), it is claimed.

Researchers from the University of Missouri characterised the thymocyte cells – an immune cell present in the thymus – while studying mice with T-ALL.

They determined all of the rodent tumours originated from the same type of T cell that expresses a unique set of molecular markers.

Adam Schrum, Associate Professor of Bioengineering, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and Surgery, said: “Once we identified the cell in mice, we wondered if humans have that same cell type and in the same quantity. The human samples we obtained contained the same T cells and in the exact quantity found in mice.”

That rare cell, which makes up 0.01% of cells in the thymus gland, became known as EADN.

Over three years, the team examined five T-ALL cases. They found one of the cases seems to have originated from an EADN cell.

Schrum concluded: “We’re not saying that EADN is the only cell that causes this type of cancer, but our findings show it is responsible for some cases. This is a very exciting discovery.”

Image credit | Science-Photo-Library

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