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Blood. 2005 Sep 15;106(6):1901-10. Epub 2005 May 12.

How do stem cells find their way home?

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Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Immunology, PO Box 26, Rehovot, 76100, Israel.


Migration of hematopoietic stem cells through the blood, across the endothelial vasculature to different organs and to their bone marrow (BM) niches, requires active navigation, a process termed homing. Homing is a rapid process and is the first and essential step in clinical stem cell transplantation. Similarly, homing is required for seeding of the fetal BM by hematopoietic progenitors during development. Homing has physiological roles in adult BM homeostasis, which are amplified during stress-induced recruitment of leukocytes from the BM reservoir and during stem cell mobilization, as part of host defense and repair. Homing is thought to be a coordinated, multistep process, which involves signaling by stromal-derived factor 1 (SDF-1) and stem cell factor (SCF), activation of lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1), very late antigen 4/5 (VLA-4/5) and CD44, cytoskeleton rearrangement, membrane type 1 (MT1)-matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activation and secretion of MMP2/9. Rolling and firm adhesion of progenitors to endothelial cells in small marrow sinusoids under blood flow is followed by trans-endothelial migration across the physical endothelium/extracellular matrix (ECM) barrier. Stem cells finalize their homing uniquely, by selective access and anchorage to their specialized niches in the extravascular space of the endosteum region and in periarterial sites. This review is focused on mechanisms and key regulators of human stem cell homing to the BM in experimental animal models and clinical transplantation protocols.

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