Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) are essential for maintaining the integrity of complex and long-lived organisms. HSC, which are self-renewing, reconstitute the hematopoietic system through out life and facilitate long-term repopulation of myeloablated recipients. We have previously demonstrated that when mice are exposed to sublethal doses of ionizing radiation, subsets of the stem/progenitor compartment are affected. In this study we examine the role of thrombopoietin (TPO) on the regenerative capacities of HSC after irradiation and report the first demonstration of efficacy of a single injection of TPO shortly after in vivo exposure to ionizing radiation for reducing HSC injury and improving their functional outcome. Our results demonstrate that TPO treatment not only reduced the number of apoptotic cells but also induced a significant modification of their intrinsic characteristics. These findings were supported by transplantation assays with long-term HSC that were irradiated or unirradiated, TPO treated or untreated, in CD45.1/CD45.2 systems and by using luciferase-labeled HSC for direct bioluminescence imaging in living animals. Of particular importance, our data demonstrate the skull to be a highly favorable site for the TPO-induced emergence of hematopoietic cells after irradiation, suggesting a TPO-mediated relationship of primitive hematopoietic cells to an anatomical component. Together, the data presented here: provide novel findings about aspects of TPO action on stem cells, open new areas of investigation for therapeutic options in patients who are treated with radiation therapy, and show that early administration of a clinically suitable TPO-agonist counteracts the previously observed adverse effects.
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Vol. 183 • No. 1