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Stem Cells. 1997;15(3):237-45.

Serum-free culture conditions for cells capable of producing long-term survival in lethally irradiated mice.

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Quality Biological, Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland 20879, USA.


The goal of ex vivo culture is to expand and/or differentiate cells in culture such that they retain their functional characteristics when reinfused into a patient. The studies presented here analyzed the use of culture conditions devoid of serum to expand murine hematopoietic stem cells. Bone marrow cells from male B6D2F1/J mice were cultured for up to 28 days in serum-free medium in the absence or presence of stem cell factor (SCF), GM-CSF or a combination of the two factors. Cells cultured for up to 21 days were assessed for granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming cells (GM-CFC), spleen colony-forming units, and cells responsible for short-term and long-term hematopoietic repopulation in lethally irradiated mice. Compared to initial seeding levels, the presence of SCF and GM-CSF increased total cell numbers 90-fold and GM-CFC numbers 42-fold over a 21-28 day culture period. Although spleen colony-forming unit cells did not increase, they were maintained at initial seeding levels over a 21-day period in the presence of SCF and GM-CSF. In lethally irradiated mice, survival enhancement and hematologic reconstitution were optimum with cells cultured for only seven days: survival at six months was 100% with cells cultured in SCF plus GM-CSF or SCF alone, compared to 50% with cells cultured with only GM-CSF. Hybridization analysis of bone marrow, spleen and thymus DNA from irradiated mice transplanted with these cultured cells confirmed male donor cell-derived repopulation at 45 days and 180 days post-transplant. These studies illustrate that murine GM-CFC can be expanded and that long-term repopulating hematopoietic cells can, at the minimum, be maintained ex vivo in serum-free culture. The use of defined serum-free culture systems holds great promise for further evaluation of the mechanisms that control hematopoietic stem cell proliferation.

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