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Arch Med Res. 2003 Nov-Dec;34(6):565-71.

Mesenchymal stem cells.

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Stem Cell Laboratory, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


It has become clear that adult mammalian bone marrow contains not one but two ostensibly discrete populations of adult stem cells. The first and by far the most fully characterized are the hematopoietic stem cells responsible for maintaining lifelong production of blood cells. The biological characteristics and properties of the second marrow resident population of stem cells, variously termed bone marrow stromal cells or mesenchymal stem cells, are in contrast much less well understood. In vitro, cultures established from single-cell suspensions of bone marrow from a wide range of mammalian species generate colonies of adherent marrow stromal cells, each derived from a single precursor cell termed a colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F). Culture conditions have been developed to expand marrow stromal cells in vitro while maintaining the capacity of these cells to differentiate into bone, fat, and cartilage. A significant portion of our current knowledge of this population of cells is based on analysis of the properties of these culture expanded cells, not on the primary colony-initiating cells. In this article, we will focus on methodologies to prospectively isolate stromal progenitors from mouse and human bone marrow and will review current data that suggest stromal progenitors in the bone marrow in situ are associated with the outer surfaces of blood vessels and may share identity with vascular pericytes.

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