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Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2008:43-51. doi: 10.1182/asheducation-2008.1.43.

MDS: a stem cell disorder--but what exactly is wrong with the primitive hematopoietic cells in this disease?

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Laboratory of Molecular Aspects of Hematopoiesis, Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Despite the various abnormalities identified in the immune system or the bone marrow microenvironment in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), most of the investigation of this disorder has centered on the hematopoietic stem/progenitor compartment. It is generally written that MDS is a stem cell disorder, and there is certainly evidence supporting this view. However, whether it occurs in a cell with only myeloid multipotentiality (i.e., that involves megakaryocytic, erythroid and granulocytic/monocytic lineages) or occurs in a true stem cell is open to debate. The absence of an assay for human stem cells necessitates the use of surrogate markers for such cells, such as gene expression profiles, or the identification of specific genetic or epigenetic abnormalities that are found in multiple lineages. Clearly, the common cytogenetic and genetic abnormalities found in MDS are most indicative of a clonal myeloid disease similar to AML, rather than a lymphoid disease, and the often tri-lineage ineffective hematopoiesis and dysplasia are generally not found within the lymphoid compartment. Recent studies, using modern molecular detection techniques, have identified new recurring molecular lesions in these disorders but have not really unraveled its pathogenesis.

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