The β-thalassemia syndromes are the most prevalent genetic disorder globally, characterised by reduced or absent β-globin chain synthesis. HbE/β-thalassemia is a subtype of β-2 thalassemia with extremely high frequency in Asia. Studying molecular defects behind βthalassemia is severely impeded by paucity of material from patients and lack of suitable cell lines. Approaches to derive erythroid cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) created from patients are confounded by poor levels of erythroid cell expansion, aberrant or incomplete erythroid differentiation and foetal/embryonic rather than adult globin expression. In this study we generate an immortalised erythroid cell line from peripheral blood stem cells of a HbE/β-thalassemia patient. Morphological analysis shows the cells are proerythroblasts with some early basophilic erythroblasts, with no change in morphology over time in culture. The line differentiates along the erythroid pathway to orthochromatic erythroblasts and reticulocytes. Importantly, unlike iPSCs, the line maintains the haemoglobin profile of the patient’s red blood cells. This is the first human cellular model for β-thalassemia providing a sustainable source of disease cells for studying underlying disease mechanisms and for use as drug screening platform, particularly for reagents designed to increase foetal haemoglobin expression as we have additionally demonstrated with hydroxyurea.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 17 Sep 2020|