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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2003;53:139-58.

Ontogeny of hematopoiesis: examining the emergence of hematopoietic cells in the vertebrate embryo.

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  • 1Division of Hematology/Oncology, Harvard Medical School and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are responsible for generating all the lineages of the blood. During vertebrate development, waves of hematopoietic activity can be found in distinct anatomical sites, and they contribute to both embryonic and adult hematopoiesis. The origin of the HSCs that ultimately give rise to all the adult blood lineages has been a controversial issue in the field of hematopoiesis. Studies of amniotes have linked HSC activity to the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM) region, whereas others suggest that the yolk sac is the true source of HSCs. This review describes both primitive and definitive hematopoiesis in mice, humans, chicks, frogs, and zebrafish and examines the current debate over the embryonic origins of HSCs.

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