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Blood. 2010 Oct 14;116(15):e41-55. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-02-268466. Epub 2010 Jul 20.

Hematopoiesis in 3 dimensions: human and murine bone marrow architecture visualized by confocal microscopy.

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Hematology Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


In many animals, blood cell production occurs in the bone marrow. Hematopoiesis is complex, requiring self-renewing and pluripotent stem cells, differentiated progenitor and precursor cells, and supportive stroma, adipose tissue, vascular structures, and extracellular matrix. Although imaging is a vital tool in hematology research, the 3-dimensional architecture of the bone marrow tissue in situ remains largely uncharacterized. The major hindrance to imaging the intact marrow is the surrounding bone structures are almost impossible to cut/image through. We have overcome these obstacles and describe a method whereby whole-mounts of bone marrow tissue were immunostained and imaged in 3 dimensions by confocal fluorescence and reflection microscopy. We have successfully mapped by multicolor immunofluorescence the localization pattern of as many as 4 cell features simultaneously over large tiled views and to depths of approximately 150 μm. Three-dimensional images can be assessed qualitatively and quantitatively to appreciate the distribution of cell types and their interrelationships, with minimal perturbations of the tissue. We demonstrate its application to normal mouse and human marrow, to murine models of marrow failure, and to patients with aplastic anemia, myeloid, and lymphoid cell malignancies. The technique should be generally adaptable for basic laboratory investigation and for clinical diagnosis of hematologic diseases.

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