Most readers will probably be aware of how important stem cells are when it comes to medical research. As they have yet to differentiate they have the possibility of becoming any cell in the body if required, but this great variability comes with an inherent instability. The hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow, the cells from which the blood cells can be formed, have the potential to produce leukaemia and other blood cancers. There is also the risk of local tumours spreading their cells into the bone marrow which can result in cancer stem cells and rapid bone metastasis as the skeleton is invaded by the cancer. It is important to understand how the standard and malevolent stem cells interact with each other in the bone marrow so that these conditions can be counteracted and prevented.
A stem cell niche is a microenvironment where stem cells are found. It can be in a living or artificial environment although this study is referring to the microenvironment within the bone marrow itself. Understanding what features control the stem cells, the purpose of the niche, is difficult with bone marrow as the cells are found deep within the bone and so far detailed understanding of the hematopoietic stem cells has been hard to come by. It has been shown that transplanting the stem cells from one animal to another makes it easier to analyse the cells as they are force to reconstruct within their new carrier.
During their donation the cells can be tagged and then observed with much greater ease and the whole process is also practice for possible medical procedures involving transplanting such cells. Other experiments have shown the miraculous rescue of a mouse which had received a lethal amount of radiation, by injecting just a single hematopoietic stem cell into its bloodstream. However the single cell could not be tracked or imaged successfully, only once the cell had proliferated widely could these produced cells be seen. This paper offers a way to control the transplanting of these single cells straight into the bone marrow of live mice. This means the region can revisited in order to image and assess the transplanted cells engraftment and how it interacts with the niche.