Can We Generate Healthy Immune Systems Using Hematopoietic Stem Cells?

Dr. Gay Crooks

Gay M. Crooks, MD.
Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics and Orthopaedic Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Using Hematopoietic Stem Cells To Rebuild Immune Systems

Dr. Crooks uses hematopoietic stem cells to bolster and rebuild patients' immune systems. A leading researcher of hematopoietic stem cell behavior, Dr. Crooks defines the intricate cellular processes driving human immune-system creation.

Discovery by discovery, Dr. Crooks builds the advanced knowledge necessary to bring healthy immune systems to as many patients as possible.

Studying Hematopoietic Stem Cells to Improve Immune Function

Bone marrow transplants hold promise for healing a variety of immune diseases. The procedure supplies patients with hematopoietic stem cells that can turn into functional immune-system cells. However, bone marrow transplants pose undeniable and serious risks when stem cells do not behave as planned.

To better predict—and influence—the results of bone marrow transplants, Dr. Crooks strives to decode hematopoietic stem cell behavior.

The Crooks Lab has already defined genes important to early stem cell development and ways stem cells mature into immune-system cells.

Recently, Dr. Crooks and her team used RNA sequencing to pinpoint genes associated with the development of white blood cells. Isolating these genes allows researchers to dig deep into the processes that generate either T cells or B cells.

The team hopes to leverage their findings to define the mechanisms driving normal white blood cell development and detect the underlying process flaws leading to immune deficiencies. Read more in LncRNA Profiling of Human Lymphoid Progenitors Reveals Transcriptional Divergence of B and T Lineages, published in Nature Immunology.

The Future of Human Immune System Generation and Manipulation

In addition to mapping stem cell behavior, Dr. Crooks hopes to better understand, and even recreate, T cells—the chief operatives of the immune response. To achieve that goal, she focuses on the thymus, the gland that facilitates the production and direction of T cells.

The team hopes to leverage the organoids to improve immune function and even engineer T cells designed to attack cancer cells. 

With every gene, mechanism, and process discovered, Dr. Crooks and her team build an unprecedented understanding of cellular behavior with the potential to drive the growth of optimal immune systems that fight diseases—or even halt their development.

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