Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Individual Response

Lab bone marrow model grown from patient cells successfully tests how the individual will respond to platelet-boosting treatments

29 July 2021

Individual Response

For platelets, small blood cells responsible for clotting, balance is key: too many increases the risk of blood clots, while too few can lead to uncontrolled bleeding. One way of treating inherited thrombocytopenias, genetic disorders characterised by low platelet counts, is to boost megakaryocytes, platelet-producing cells in the bone marrow. Drugs like eltrombopag act as mimics of thrombopoietin, a protein that stimulates megakaryocyte production. Unfortunately, patients suffering from seemingly the same conditions respond differently to these treatments. To investigate this, scientists designed a laboratory model of human bone marrow (pictured), made of silk proteins and megakaryocytes (in red) derived from patient cells. Tests showed that how successfully eltrombopag increased platelet counts in this miniature system strongly correlated with the patients’ actual response to treatment. In the future, such models could help assess which treatments should be most effective for different patients, as well as facilitate further study and drug development.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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