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May 27, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 18

Grant Will Aid Researchers' Study of Blood Cells, Leukemia

Prof. Thomas Chiles (Biology) is the co-recipient of a five-year, $4.65 million program project grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the study of white blood cells involved in leukemia.

Chiles' BC research group, working with that of Boston University Professor of Medicine Thomas Rothstein, will focus on understanding the growth and differentiation of a small subset of white blood cells called B-1a lymphocytes (B-1a cells). B-1a cells, which are found in the peritoneal cavity, and B-2 cells, which are located in the spleen and lymph nodes, help destroy pathogens that enter the body, and then help the body acquire immunity against those particular pathogens, protecting the body from future invasion. However, an over-production of B-1a cells can lead to autoimmune diseases and leukemias.

The two groups of researchers previously demonstrated that the rules governing cell cycle control and differentiation to immunoglobulin-secreting plasma cells are different in B-1a cells than in B-2 cells. As part of the new NIH-funded program project, research carried out at Boston College will seek to better understand the molecular mechanisms that control when B-1a cells enter the cell cycle and proliferate.

Insights from these studies will help increase understanding of the molecular basis of several human lymphoproliferative disorders associated with B-1a cells, including a form of cancer called chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which involves overproduction of white blood cells by the bone marrow, is the most common type of leukemia in adults.

More information about research in Chiles' laboratory is available online.

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