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Haematologica. 2011 May;96(5):646-54. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2010.036343. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

T-lymphoid differentiation potential measured in vitro is higher in CD34+CD38-/lo hematopoietic stem cells from umbilical cord blood than from bone marrow and is an intrinsic property of the cells.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, Ghent University, University Hospital Ghent, 4Blok A, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.



Human bone marrow and umbilical cord blood are sources of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation, which is a life-saving treatment in a variety of diseases but is burdened by delayed T-cell reconstitution. Observational studies evaluating T-cell reconstitution in post-transplant recipients suggest that cord blood hematopoietic stem cells have a more effective capacity for T-cell reconstitution. This study focuses on the comparison of the capacity of cord blood and bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells to generate T cells in vitro.


Hematopoietic stem cells were cultured in OP9-delta-like-1 and OP9-green fluorescent protein co-cultures to estimate T and myeloid generation capacity, respectively. Phenotypic markers of T-lineage or myeloid differentiation were measured by flow cytometry and used to analyze their kinetics as a function of culture time. Hematopoietic stem cells were labeled with carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinamidyl ester and analyzed after culture to track their phenotypic progression in consecutive generations. Mixed OP9-delta-like-1 co-cultures were done with either carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinamidyl ester-labeled bone marrow and unlabeled cord blood hematopoietic stem cells, or vice versa, to evaluate their mutual influence on T-lineage differentiation. The T-cell potential of hematopoietic stem cells was addressed quantitatively by limiting dilution analysis.


Bulk cultures showed faster and more extensive T-cell differentiation by cord blood hematopoietic stem cells. Furthermore, the T-lymphoid differentiation capacity of cord blood and bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells can be discriminated very early based on the coordinated expression of CD34 and CD7. Mixing experiments with cord blood hematopoietic stem cells and bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells showed that these differences are cell intrinsic. Quantitative clonal analyses demonstrated that CD34(+)CD38(-/lo) hematopoietic stem cells from cord blood contained a two-fold higher T-lineage generation capacity than CD34(+)CD38(-/lo) bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells, whereas the myeloid differentiation was similar.


Our data shows that cord blood hematopoietic stem cells have higher T-lymphoid differentiation potential than bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells and that this property is cell autonomous.

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