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Red cell production occurs at the erythroblastic island which is composed of a central macrophage surrounded by developing red blood (erythroid) cells. Although erythroblastic islands were discovered more than 60 years ago, the identity of the central macrophage has been elusive. In the August 1, 2019 issue of Blood, the LFKRI laboratory of Membrane Biology, led by Dr. Xiuli An, have discovered erythropoietin receptor expression as a marker of the central macrophage. Through RNA-seq analyses, the scientists have identified specialized functions of these macrophages in supporting red cell production, also known as erythropoiesis. The findings from this study set the stage for future studies of the central macrophage function during normal as well as disordered erythropoiesis in hematologic diseases such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, polycythemia vera and myelodysplastic syndromes.

Congratulation to the senior author of the publication Dr. Xiuli An, Head of Laboratory of Membrane Biology and first authors, Drs. Wei Li, a graduate studentand Yaomei Wang, a research fellow. Other members of Dr. An’s laboratory who contributed to the study include Huizhi Zhao, Huan Zhang, Shihui Wang, Xinhua Guo and Yongshuai Hanas well as contributions from LFKRI scientists Drs. Avital Mendelson and Karina Yazdanbakhsh.  

The paper was selected for the Coverof the issue of Blood (see picture) with an accompanying Commentary, highlighting the importance of the study!    

References

Li W, Wang Y, Zhao H, Zhang H,Xu Y, Wang S, Guo X,Huang Y, Zhang S, Han Y, Wu X, Rice CM, Huang G, Gallagher PG, Mendelson A, Yazdanbakhsh K, Liu J, Chen L, An X. Identification and transcriptome analysis of erythroblastic island macrophages. Blood. 2019 Aug 1;134(5):480-491. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31101625