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Erythropoiesis is the process by which red blood cells (erythrocytes) are produced. During human foetal development, erythropoiesis first occurs in the yolk sac, then in the foetal liver and then, in the third trimester and after birth, in the bone marrow.
β-thalassemia is characterised by the presence of an excess of α-globin chains, which contribute to erythrocyte pathology. Here the authors use CRISP/Cas9 to reduce α-globin expression in hematopoietic precursors, and show effectiveness in xenograft assays in mice.
CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) sites are enriched at the boundaries of topologically associated domains (TADs), but their function within TADs is unclear. Removal of sub-TAD CTCF sites adjacent to the α-globin enhancers is now shown to result in inappropriate activation of neighbouring genes. Intra-TAD enhancer insulation might be broadly important for tissue specificity of enhancers.
Determining the differentiation potential of stem and progenitor cells is essential for understanding their function, yet our ability to do so is limited by the restrictions of experimental assays. Based on single-cell functional and molecular profiling experiments, a new computational approach shows how lineage commitment may occur in human haematopoiesis.