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Nat Rev Immunol. 2013 May;13(5):336-48. doi: 10.1038/nri3443.

Signalling pathways that control vertebrate haematopoietic stem cell specification.

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Department of Hematology, Division of Experimental Hematology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Pl., Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.


Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are tissue-specific stem cells that replenish all mature blood lineages during the lifetime of an individual. Clinically, HSCs form the foundation of transplantation-based therapies for leukaemias and congenital blood disorders. Researchers have long been interested in understanding the normal signalling mechanisms that specify HSCs in the embryo, in part because recapitulating these requirements in vitro might provide a means to generate immune-compatible HSCs for transplantation. Recent embryological work has demonstrated the existence of previously unknown signalling requirements. Moreover, it is now clear that gene expression in the nearby somite is integrally involved in regulating the transition of the embryonic endothelium to a haemogenic fate. Here, we review current knowledge of the intraembryonic signals required for the specification of HSCs in vertebrates.

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