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Bone marrow localization and functional properties of human hematopoietic stem cells

Boyd, Allison L.a,b; Bhatia, Mickiea,b

Current Opinion in Hematology: July 2014 - Volume 21 - Issue 4 - p 249–255
doi: 10.1097/MOH.0000000000000055
HEMATOPOIESIS: Edited by Hal E. Broxmeyer

Purpose of review Historically, studies of the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) microenvironment in bone marrow have focused on the identification of individual supportive cell lineages likely to be responsible for maintaining HSCs in a self-renewing and regenerative state. More recently, awareness has developed regarding the broad and dynamic heterogeneity of nonhematopoietic cells that reside within the bone marrow space. We review recent insights that provide an emerging and complex context for understanding the spatially dependent regulation of HSC functional properties in the bone marrow and the collective inputs of multiple cell types.

Recent findings Within the last 18 months, high-resolution imaging, xenograft modeling, and genetic mouse models have afforded innovative methods of detecting and interrogating HSCs with precision at the cellular level. Spatially distinct sites within the bone marrow house functionally divergent HSCs and progenitors, and these different habitats are becoming carefully characterized from a cellular and molecular perspective. This is critical toward understanding how bone marrow microenvironments adapt to accommodate cellular demands for hematopoiesis and how these mechanisms are disrupted in pathological conditions.

Summary The bone marrow is not a continuum but an integrated unit with complex trophic interactions. Emphasis on human data will become necessary as these concepts mature and develop translationally toward changing clinical practices in HSC transplantation and even in the treatment of leukemias.

aStem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

bDepartment of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence to Mickie Bhatia, McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCC-RI), Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, MDCL 5029, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1. Tel: +1 905 525 9140x28687; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins