January 17, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

The stem cell paper of the week is a fun one about how capsaicin and nociceptors reportedly mobilize blood stem cells.  However, since the authors only show this in mice, could it also happen in humans?

They argue it’s likely happening in people too. Note that nociceptors are special structures in our bodies that sense pain, not just from spicy food but also from other sources.

Where to even start of think about the big take-home message? “Spicy food sparks stem cells” or “stem cells are a pain”? I found the data on neural collaboration with hematopoietic stem cell control mechanisms to be the most intriguing part.

gao et al nature nociceptors stem cells
Nociceptor-mediated HSC mobilization. “Schematic representation showing that nociceptive-nerve-derived CGRP, but not substance P, acts via CGRP receptors on HSCs to enhance their mobilization via a cAMP-mediated signalling pathway. “Gao et al Nature, Capsaicin acts via nociceptor signaling to mobilize blood stem cells.

Capsaicin putting the spice in stem cell pathways?

The paper, Nociceptive nerves regulate haematopoietic stem cell mobilization, is in Nature.

Here’s an accompanying News & Views piece that goes over the article and big picture implications: Pain-sensing neurons mobilize blood stem cells from bone marrow.

Why would nociceptors feed into HSC biology and mobilization? What do you think? The best idea I have about this so far is that the body senses it has been damaged so it ramps up stem cells, but would just eating spicy food be enough to keep triggering that?

Here’s the key passage about clinical implications: “Targeting the nociceptive nervous system could therefore represent a strategy to improve the yield of HSCs for stem cell-based therapeutic agents.” So prior to a hematopoietic stem cell harvest and/or transplant (HSCT), targeting nociceptors could release more stem cells?

I might have to add this new finding to my classic Stem Cell Boosts posts.

Surprisingly, to me at least, there are a decent number of papers already about capsaicin and stem cells on Pubmed.

More recommended reads for the week

Stem Cells and Sports stars

What is a stem cell injection? And will it help the Celtics’ Kemba Walker?, Boston Globe. The newspaper did a decent job of providing some cautionary words on this.