Stem Cell Propagation In Bone Marrow Requires Hydrogen Sulfide

By Shweta Iyer on April 18, 2014 12:48 PM EDT

stem cell research
Stem cells present in the bone marrow need hydrogen sulfide to multiply and form bone tissue. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

A new study conducted at the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Ostrow School of Dentistry has suggested that stem cells present in the bone marrow need hydrogen sulfide to multiply and form bone tissue, according to a press release Thursday.

Stem cells, which are found in the bone marrow have the ability to multiply and develop into several cell types during early life. They are part of the body's internal repair system, dividing and replenishing old cells throughout a being's life. Stem cells in bone marrow are used for a number of therapeutic cures such as treatment of leukaemia. Scientists believe that stem cells have many potential uses beyond treatment of blood related diseases.

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Professor Songtao Shi, the chief investigator of this new research said the presence of hydrogen sulfide produced by the cells governs the flow of calcium ions. The essential ions activate a chain of cellular signals that results in osteogenesis, the process of new bone tissue formation, and keeps the breakdown of old bone tissue at a proper level.

The observations were made on experimental mice. A deficiency of hydrogen sulfide resulted in disruption of bone hemeostasis, a process by which new bones are formed and old bones are removed thus maintaining a proper bone balance in the body, and decrease in bone mass density that led to a condition similar to osteoporosis, where the mice were observed to have weakened and brittle bones. In humans, osteoporosis is a progressive disease, which increases the risk of fractures, mobility limitations, and spinal problems.

But the bone problems in the mice seemed to improve when Shi and his team administered hydrogen sulfide in the form of small molecules into their body. This improvement in the mice's condition may have potential significance in treatment in humans too.

"These results demonstrate hydrogen sulfide regulates bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells, and restoring hydrogen sulfide levels via non-toxic donors may provide treatments for diseases such as osteoporosis, which can arise from hydrogen sulfide deficiencies," Shi said.

Osteoporosis affects 55 percent of Americans above the age of 50. Statistics show that more than 52 million Americans have or are at risk of getting the disease. Worldwide, one in three women and one in 12 men aged above 50 are estimated to have osteoporosis. A study of this kind could help the development of potential drugs to treat osteoporosis.

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