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Haematologica. 1999 May;84(5):390-6.

In vitro growth and quantification of early (CD33-/CD38-) myeloid progenitor cells: stem cell factor requirement and effects of previous chemotherapy.

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  • 1Divisione di Ematologia dell'Universit√† di Torino, Azienda Ospedaliera "San Giovanni Battista", Turin, Italy.



All culture systems exploring the early (pre-CFU) hematopoietic compartment are generally complex, time-consuming and unsuitable for routine application. The aim of our study was to develop a stroma-free culture system to quantify early bone marrow (BM) myeloid progenitor cells.


Low density, progenitor cell enriched BM cells underwent a double cytotoxic treatment with CD38 and CD33 monoclonal antibodies + rabbit complement, which depleted 99% of CFU-GM and BFU-E. Then they were cultured, both in agar and in limiting-dilution liquid culture, in the presence of 5637 cell line supernatant (containing GM-CSF, G-CSF and interleukin 1 ), stem cell factor (SCF) and interleukin 3 (IL3).


The largest number (median 14.9 on 1x10(5) cells) and size (>50,000 cells) of myelomonocytic cell clones from CD33Eth /CD38Eth progenitors was reached after 3-4 weeks of liquid culture. SCF, but not IL3, was essential for that growth. The frequency of CD33-/ CD38- progenitors grown in liquid culture was approximately three times greater than the LTC-IC frequency in the same cell suspension. An average 93% of CD33-/CD38- progenitors displayed HLA-DR antigens and 43% generated secondary CFU-GM. In the BM of 9/10 patients, previously exposed to chemotherapy, CD33-/CD38- progenitor frequency was quite low (median 0.9 on 1x10(5) cells), in spite of normal cellularity and morphology and sustained disease remission.


CD33-/CD38- progenitors can be grown and quantified in a stroma-free culture system in a relatively short time. The test can reveal long-lasting, subclinical BM damage induced by chemotherapy and could also be valuable for estimating the amount of early myeloid progenitors for transplantation purposes.

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