Meng Zhao collects scientific poster award at annual ISSCR meeting

Postdoctoral fellow Meng Zhao’s poster presentation was among a half dozen winners selected from nearly 1,000 eligible abstracts on display during last year’s annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Boston. Zhao received a $250 stipend, one-year subscriptions to Cell Stem Cell and Current Protocols in Stem Cell Research, and a complimentary registration to next year’s ISSCR’s annual meeting in Vancouver.

Zhao’s winning poster described an unexpected role for megakaryocytes—large precursor cells that give rise to blood platelets—in the maintenance and regeneration of hematopoietic, or blood-forming, stem cells. Megakaryocytes reside in the bone marrow in close proximity to hematopoietic stem cells where they help form a specialized microenvironment for hematopoietic stem cells. There, megakaryocytes provide molecular cues to keep quiescent mouse hematopoietic stem cells from proliferating when their services are not needed and to help jump-start their numbers in times of increased need, such as after chemotherapeutic treatment.

“This finding suggests that megakaryocytes might be used clinically for hematopoietic stem cell regeneration and to expand cultured hematopoietic stem cells for transplants,” explains Zhao. The transplantation of human hematopoietic stem cells isolated from bone marrow is used in the treatment of anemia, immune deficiencies and other diseases, including cancer.