Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) reside in the bone marrow, from which they can migrate out into the blood circulation, where they can then be harvested for therapeutic purposes such as transplantation. Here, Paul Frenette and colleagues show that the release of HSCs into the blood is under the control of pain-sensing neurons, or nociceptors. Upon stimulation, these neurons directly stimulate HSCs to promote their migration out of the bone marrow. In mice, HSC mobilisation can thus be induced by adding capsaicin, a chili pepper extract, to the food. This work advances our understanding of how HSC mobilisation is regulated, and may help to design new strategies to increase the yield of HSCs from blood.
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