The hematopoietic compartment is one of the most severely damaged after chemotherapy, radiotherapy or accidental irradiations. Whatever its origin, the resulting damage to the bone marrow remains difficult to evaluate. Thus, it would be of great interest to get a biological indicator of residual hematopoiesis in order to adapt the treatment to each clinical situation. Recent results indicated that the plasma Flt3 ligand concentration was increased in patients suffering from either acquired or induced aplasia, suggesting that Flt3 ligand might be useful as a biological indicator of bone marrow status. We thus followed in a mouse model as well as in several clinical situations the variations in plasma Flt3 ligand concentration, after either homogeneous or heterogeneous irradiations. These variations were correlated to the number of hematopoietic progenitors and to other parameters such as duration and depth of pancytopenia.
The results indicated that the concentration of Flt3 ligand in the blood reflects the bone marrow status, and that the follow-up of plasma Flt3 ligand concentration could give predictive information about the bone marrow function and the duration and severity of pancytopenia and thrombocytopenia.
Nevertheless, the clinical use of Flt3 ligand as a biological indicator of bone marrow damage require the knowledge of the mechanisms regulating the variations in plasma Flt3 ligand concentration. We thus developed a study in the mouse model. The results indicated that the variations in plasma Flt3 ligand variations were not solely due to a balance between its production by lymphoid cells and its consumption by hematopoietic cells. Moreover, we showed that T lymphocytes are not the main regulator of plasma Flt3 ligand concentration as previously suggested, and that other cell types, possibly including bone marrow stromal cells, might be strongly implicated. These results also suggest that the Flt3 ligand is a main systemic regulator of hematopoiesis, especially during induced bone marrow aplasia.