We have previously shown that the biologically active derivative of vitamin A, all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), regulates blood stem cell self-renewal. The effects ofATRA occur via three different retinoic acid receptors (RARs). We now have evidence that the three distinct RARs have different effects on blood-forming stem cells. This project will further investigate how the three different RARs regulate blood-forming stem cells, including exploring the use of RAR ligands for therapeutic purposes.

Supervised by

Louise Purton
Louise Purton

Head, Stem Cell Regulation

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[email protected]

Available for Student Supervision

Recipient and topic
Gavin Tjin

Dr Gavin Tjin

Postdoctoral Researcher

Stem Cell Regulation Laboratory

Investigating the relationship between blood stem cells and bone marrow ‘niches’, to ultimately improve recovery from bone marrow transplant and cancer therapy

The problem

The bone marrow is a factory for making our blood, creating billions of blood cells every day. Distinct places (niches) within the marrow support the production of distinct blood cell lineages from stem cells.

Research points to regulation of these niches being key to balancing the different cell types (such as platelets) in the blood. However, the processes controlling this regulation are not known.

Slow blood cell recovery (particularly low platelet count) is common among bone marrow transplant recipients; typically one-third experience slow platelet recovery, which significantly increases their risk of acute bleeding, illness and death. Low blood cell counts can also persist for more than six months after cancer therapy, are life-threatening and are a major reason for delaying further cycles of treatment – significantly contributing to the failure of chemotherapy to control cancers.

The project

Gavin’s project will for the first time apply innovative and advanced seven-colour microscopy imaging to identify niches in healthy mice and identify changes that occur following bone marrow transplant.

“My goal is to determine the relationship between the stem cells and the niche and how they are affected by bone marrow transplant,” says Gavin. “If we can do that, we are a step closer to understanding the factors that regulate these niches, and hence the regulation of blood cell production.”

About the recipient

Dr Gavin Tjin is an expert in light microscopy, a technique which uses visible light to detect tiny objects. Gavin’s passion is using microscopy techniques to solve biological questions – including how cells interact with their environment and how disease and treatment can alter these interactions.

Joining SVI’s Stem Cell Regulation Laboratory in 2017 as a postdoctoral researcher, Gavin has since independently established the institute’s innovative Opal multiplexing microscopy technique. Gavin completed his PhD at Sydney’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and is the author of 21 publications.