Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Making Enough Red Blood Cells

Published: Monday, June 14, 2010
Last Updated: Monday, June 14, 2010
Bookmark and Share
EMBL scientists identify molecules that ensure red blood cell production.

Red blood cells, the delivery men that take oxygen to cells all around the body, have short lives. To keep enough of them in circulation, the human body produces around 2 million of these cells every second – even more in response to challenges like severe blood loss.

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy, and EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in Hinxton, UK, have identified two small RNA molecules which ensure that enough red blood cells are produced efficiently, by fine-tuning a number of different genes involved in this process.

“A lot of the effort of blood cell formation, or haematopoiesis, goes into just keeping enough red blood cells in circulation” says Donal O’Carroll, who led the work at EMBL Monterotondo: “We’ve identified two molecules that help to do so, and which are essential in challenging situations.”

To form red blood cells, large, round cells known as precursors have to become small and disc-shaped, like balls of plasticine squeezed between finger and thumb. In the process, they must also produce the large quantities of haemoglobin that will allow them to transport oxygen, and shrink and dispose of their nucleus. The EMBL scientists found that two microRNAs, called MiR144 and MiR451, control the final stages of this process.

O’Carroll and colleagues genetically engineered mice to have no MiR144 or MiR451. They found that such mice had defects in the final stages of red blood cell formation, but produced red blood cell precursors not only in the bone marrow, but also in large quantities in the spleen. By increasing the number of precursors, the mice compensated for the fact that a smaller percentage of those precursors matured into functional red blood cells, and thus were able to survive with only a mild anaemia.

“Under steady-state conditions, mice without MiR144 or MiR451 can just about produce enough red blood cells, but if you challenge them, by chemically inducing anaemia, most of them don’t survive, because in those conditions you just can’t live with inefficient red blood cell formation” O’Carroll explains.

O’Carroll and colleagues teamed up with Anton Enright’s group at EMBL-EBI, and used a sophisticated bioinformatics approach to understand how these microRNAs act. They found that of the two, MiR451 probably plays a key role in the process, and that it likely does so not by switching a single gene on or off, but by fine-tuning a multitude of genes involved in red blood cell formation.

These microRNA molecules have been conserved throughout vertebrate evolution. They are known to also be important for red blood cell formation in fish, and are likely to play a similar role in humans too. Thus, investigating their function further could help to understand how our own red blood cells are formed, and how defects in that process may lead to conditions such as anaemia.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Finding Links and Missing Genes
A catalogue of large-scale genetic changes around the world.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Ages Apart
Multifaceted approach measured how brain and liver age differently.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Iron Regulators Join War on Pathogens
Iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) play an important role in the body’s immune system.
Friday, July 17, 2015
EMBL Scientists Solve Decades-Old Cell Biology Puzzle
Behaviour of clathrin proteins, crucial for endocytosis, is clarified using new imaging techniques.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
It Runs in the Family
Distantly related viruses share a common machinery for replication.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
The Battle for Iron
Understanding anaemias of the chronically ill.
Saturday, February 07, 2015
Protecting us from Our Cells
Growth factor boosts natural defence against auto-immune disorders.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Double Act: How a Single Molecule Can Attract and Repel Growing Brain Connections
The 3D structure of Netrin-1 bound to DCC shows Netrin-1 binds to two DCC molecules in different ways.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
Cancer by Remote-Control
Overlooked DNA shuffling drives deadly paediatric brain tumour.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Wired for Change
First steps of gene regulation evolution revealed.
Monday, August 05, 2013
More than Meets the Eye
‘Transformer’ protein makes different sized transport pods.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Rigged to Explode?
Inherited mutation links exploding chromosomes to cancer.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Multi-tasking Protein Provides New Approaches for Anti-tuberculosis Drugs
Scientists from EMBL reveal new insights into the workings of enzymes from a group of bacteria including Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Human Genome’s Breaking Points
Comprehensive catalogue uncovers genetic sequence of large-scale differences between human genomes.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
EMBL Scientists Uncover Counterpart of Cerebral Cortex in Marine Worms
Findings give an idea of what the most ancient higher brain centres looked like, and what our distant ancestors used them for.
Friday, September 03, 2010
Scientific News
Atriva Therapeutics GmbH Develops Innovative Flu Drug
Highly effective against seasonal and pandemic influenza.
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Study Removes Cancer Doubt for Multiple Sclerosis Drug
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London are calling on the medical community to reconsider developing a known drug to treat people with relapsing Multiple sclerosis after new evidence shows it does not increase the risk of cancer as previously thought.
Self-Propelled Powder to Stop Bleeding
UBC researchers have created the first self-propelled particles capable of delivering coagulants against the flow of blood to treat severe bleeding, a potentially huge advancement in trauma care.
Five New Genetic Variants Linked to Brain Cancer Identified
The biggest ever study of DNA from people with glioma – the most common form of brain cancer – has discovered five new genetic variants associated with the disease.
Antibody Treatment Efficacious in Psoriasis
An experimental, biologic treatment, brodalumab, achieved 100 percent reduction in psoriasis symptoms in twice as many patients as a second, commonly used treatment, according to the results of a multicenter clinical trial led by Mount Sinai researchers.
Predictive Model for Breast Cancer Progression
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.
Probing the Forces Involved in Creating The Mitotic Spindle
Scientists at The Rockefeller University reveal new insights into the mechanical forces that govern elements of the mitotic spindle formation.
Identifying Cancer’s Food Sensors May Help to Halt Tumour Growth
Oxford University researchers have identified a protein used by tumours to help them detect food supplies. Initial studies show that targeting the protein could restrict cancerous cells’ ability to grow.
Fatty Liver Disease and Scarring Have Strong Genetic Component
Researchers say that hepatic fibrosis, which involves scarring of the liver that can result in dysfunction and, in severe cases, cirrhosis and cancer, may be as much a consequence of genetics as environmental factors.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos