Scientists from China and the United States have found a new gene that can significantly increase an individual's odds of developing a myeloid malignancy such as leukemia.
Myeloid malignancies occur when bone marrow is unable to produce enough healthy blood cells. Stem cell transplants are an effective cure for blood cancers, though finding donors remains difficult. Medical scientists have therefore been working to understand the mechanisms of such diseases, searching for early diagnosis methods.
For the study, published in the Cell journal, scientists performed rare variant association studies on a large population cohort, utilizing 460,000 blood cancer patient bio samples from UK Biobank, which is a large biomedical database.
They identified a previously unreported risk gene, CTR9, whose loss-of-function can cause dysregulation of hematopoietic stem cells and is predicted to result in a tenfold increase in an individual's odds of developing a myeloid malignancy.
"In the future, we may be able to screen this gene in health checks to see whether a person is a potential blood cancer patient," said Zhao Jiawei, the paper's lead author.
Zhao, however, noted that the research was based mainly on European data, and it has not yet been confirmed that its findings are applicable to people from regions such as Asia and Africa.