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Leukemia. 2012 Jan;26(1):54-62. doi: 10.1038/leu.2011.236. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

The vascular niche: home for normal and malignant hematopoietic stem cells.

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Division of Cellular Therapy, Department of Medicine, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are uniquely capable of self-renewal and provision of all of the mature elements of the blood and immune system throughout the lifetime of an individual. HSC self-renewal is regulated by both intrinsic mechanisms and extrinsic signals mediated via specialized microenvironments or 'niches' wherein HSCs reside. HSCs have been shown to reside in close association with bone marrow (BM) osteoblasts in the endosteal niche and also in proximity to BM sinusoidal vessels. An unresolved question surrounds whether the endosteal and vascular niches provide synchronous or redundant regulation of HSC fate or whether these niches provide wholly unique regulatory functions. Furthermore, while some aspects of the mechanisms through which osteoblasts regulate HSC fate have been defined, the mechanisms through which the vascular niche regulates HSC fate remain obscure. Here, we summarize the anatomic and functional basis supporting the concept of an HSC vascular niche as well as the precise function of endothelial cells, perivascular cells and stromal cells within the niche in regulating HSC fate. Lastly, we will highlight the role of the vascular niche in regulating leukemic stem cell fate in vivo.

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