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Biologists at UC San Diego have identified the specific region in vertebrates where adult blood stem cells arise during embryonic development. Their discovery, which appears in a paper in this week’s early online edition of the journal Nature, is a critical first step for the development of safer and more effective stem cell therapies for patients with leukemia, multiple myeloma, anemia and a host of other diseases of the blood or bone marrow.

The researchers say their time-lapse imaging of the process, by which primitive embryonic tissues first produce the parent stem cells that produce all adult blood cells over the life of an individual, should help guide future efforts to repair and replace this cell population for therapeutic purposes.

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