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Nat Immunol. 2002 Apr;3(4):323-8.

Hematopoiesis and stem cells: plasticity versus developmental heterogeneity.

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  • 1Division of Hematology and Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston, MA 02115, USA. stuart_orkin@dfci.harvard.edu


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) provide for blood formation throughout the life of the individual. Studies of HSCs form a conceptual framework for the analysis of stem cells of other organ systems. We review here the origin of HSCs during embryological development, the relationship between hematopoiesis and vascular development and the potential plasticity of HSCs and other tissue stem cells. Recent experiments in the mouse have been widely interpreted as evidence for unprecedented transdifferentiation of tissue stem cells. The use of enriched, but impure, cell populations allows for alternative interpretation. In considering these findings, we draw a distinction here between the plasticity of adult stem cells and the heterogeneity of stem cell types that pre-exist within tissues.

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