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Blood. 2004 Mar 1;103(5):1647-52. Epub 2003 Nov 20.

Serum deprivation of human marrow stromal cells (hMSCs) selects for a subpopulation of early progenitor cells with enhanced expression of OCT-4 and other embryonic genes.

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  • 1Center for Gene Therapy, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Recently there has been interest in developing cell and gene therapies with adult stem cells from human bone marrow referred to as mesenchymal stem cells or marrow stromal cells (hMSCs). We incubated early-passage hMSCs in serum-free medium without cytokines or other supplements for 2 to 4 weeks. Surprisingly, a subpopulation of the cells survived serum deprivation and then began to proliferate in serum-containing medium. The cells selected by serum deprivation had longer telomeres than control cells. Also, the patterns of gene expression revealed by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays and microarray data indicated that the cells selected by serum deprivation were a subpopulation of very early progenitor cells with enhanced expression of octomer-binding transcription factor 4 (OCT-4) and several other genes characteristically expressed in embryonic cells.

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