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Background: Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the second most common type of leukemia. Standard treatment includes chemotherapy as well as stem cell transplantation, but for aging patients and those with impaired immune function these rigorous therapies are not always possible. Furthermore, AML patients harboring a chromosomal rearrangement involving Multiple Lineage Leukemia (MLL) exhibit far worse prognoses than patients without. Given these circumstances new therapies must be developed.

Methods: Danio rerio (zebrafish) has emerged as a powerful model organism for investigating human blood malignancies due to the conservation of hematopoiesis between humans and zebrafish. We developed a transient transgenic model exhibiting AML characteristics by microinjecting single-cell zebrafish embryos with a tissue specific MLL-ENL expression construct.

Results: We found that the expression of MLL-ENL induced a clustered expansion of MLL+ and pu.1+ myeloid cells on the yolk sac at 48 and 72 hours post fertilization (hpf). To characterize our transient AML model, we treated MLL-ENL expressing embryos with either one of or a combination of two drugs that are currently being used in human AML drug trials, Venetoclax and Flavopiridol. We found that treatment with either drug reduced the myeloid expansion induced by the expression of MLL-ENL, and that co-treatment reduced the observed myeloid expansion even further.

Conclusions: Although further analysis is required, these data suggest that we successfully developed a transient transgenic AML model in zebrafish. Furthermore, these data suggest that Venetoclax and Flavopiridol co-treatment could yield better outcomes for AML patients than treatment with either drug individually.

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Zebrafish Model of MLL-Rearranged Acute Myeloid Leukemia

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