Leukemia is the result of a broken balance in which new cells are created and old cells die. A study found that the risk of contracting leukemia, a difficult blood cancer, can be easily predicted in advance with a blood test.
As we age, cells transformed by mutations in blood stem cells may have a growth advantage over other cells and may become more numerous. This is called ‘fitness advantage’. A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow in the UK investigated how changes in the ‘fitness advantage’ in blood production could provide clues about the risk of developing leukemia.
“We measured changes in blood samples from 83 of the ‘Rhodian birth cohort’ every three years over a 12-year period,” said Dr Tamir Chandra, MRC Human Genetics Institute, Edinburgh. “We wanted to understand the relationship between blood changes and the risk of developing leukemia.” The Rhodian Birth Cohort is a longitudinal study of the brain, cognition and general aging. The study followed up individuals enrolled in the 1921 cohort between the ages of 70 and 82 and individuals enrolled in the 1936 cohort between the ages of 79 and 92 every three years.
The team then combined complex genomic data with a machine learning algorithm to link the different growth rates of mutation-bearing blood stem cells with the mutation. Certain mutations have been found to provide distinct health benefits to stem cells measured in people without leukemia. This could be used to predict how fast mutant cells will grow, which determines leukemia risk.
“To understand leukemia risk, we need to consider the balance between the different cells involved in blood cell production and how this balance changes as we age,” said Dr Linus Schumacher, University of Edinburgh’s Center for Regenerative Medicine. By linking the data with machine learning, we were able to predict how cells will behave in the future based on the mutations they make.”
Co-author Dr. Christina Kirschner, from the University of Glasgow Cancer Science Institute, said: “Identifying an individual patient’s risk of developing leukemia can help doctors adjust the interval or offer early treatment to those most at risk for leukemia, and increase the likelihood of treatment success. This is higher,” he said. “Due to the limited sample size, additional studies are needed to validate the results in a larger population,” the researchers said.
The study was published in ‘Nature Medicine’. The original title was ‘Longitudinal dynamics of clonal hematopoiesis identifies gene-specific fitness effects’.
Reporter Lee Bo-hyun email@example.com