Blood cells appear to reach their final state following a competition between gene regulatory networks, say our scientists in the Aug. 31, 2016, issue of Nature.

As blood cells develop, they are bombarded with genetic signals that pull them into multi-lineage states. What cues them to their final type remains unknown, but research points to the instability caused by competing gene networks.

“It is somewhat chaotic, but from that chaos results order,” says Harinder Singh, PhD, study co-author and Director of Immunobiology. “This helps us address the intermediate states and the networks of regulatory genes that underlie cell-type specification.

Using computer technology developed by study co-author Nathan Salomonis, PhD, Division of Bioinformatics, the team examined how neutrophil and monocyte blood cells form in mice.

With further study, the findings could provide insights into developmental miscues that cause disease, says H. Leighton Grimes, PhD, study co-author, Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology. 

“How do blood cells know to become neutrophils or monocytes?” he asks. “The number of cells has to be exquisitely balanced. Too many or too few of either can kill you.”

     Nathan Salomonis, PhD.          H Leighton Grimes, PhD.          Harinder Singh, PhD.

Nathan Salomonis, PhD, H. Leighton Grimes, PhD, and Harinder Singh, PhD