Hematopoietic stem cells: nature and niche nurture

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Like all cells, hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and their offspring, the hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs), are highly sociable. Their capacity to interact with bone marrow niche cells and respond to environmental cytokines orchestrates the generation of the different types of blood and immune cells. The starting point for engineering hematopoiesis ex vivo is the nature of HSCs, and a longstanding premise is that they are a homogeneous population of cells. However, recent findings have shown that adult bone marrow HSCs are really a mixture of cells, with many having lineage affiliations. A second key consideration is: Do HSCs “choose” a lineage in a random and cell-intrinsic manner, or are they instructed by cytokines? Since their discovery, the hematopoietic cytokines have been viewed as survival and proliferation factors for lineage committed HPCs. Some are now known to also instruct cell lineage choice. These fundamental changes to our understanding of hematopoiesis are important for placing niche support in the right context and for fabricating an ex vivo environment to support HSC development.


Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • hematopoietic stem cells, decision-making, stem cell niches, cytokines