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Blood. 1997 Nov 1;90(9):3471-81.

Characterization of stromal progenitor cells enriched by flow cytometry.

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Medical Research Council Group In Periodontal Physiology, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The progenitors for cells of bone, cartilage, fat, and muscle are thought to be derived from mesenchymal stem cells but despite extensive study of stromal cell differentiation, neither mesenchymal stem cells or the more committed, tissue-specific progenitors have been well-characterized. In this study we used flow cytometry to isolate from fetal rat periosteum a population of small, slowly cycling cells with low cytoplasmic granularity (S cells) that display stem cell characteristics. On plating, S cells exhibited a 90% higher labeling index with [3H]-thymidine compared to unsorted cells and when grown in culture generated cartilage, adipocyte, and smooth muscle phenotypes, in addition to bone. Only the S-cell population showed extensive self-renewal of cells with osteogenic potential. Electron microscopy showed that S cells have high nuclear:cytoplasmic ratios with large condensed nuclei and a paucity of cytoplasmic organelles. Freshly sorted suspensions of immunocytochemically stained S cells did not express differentiation-associated markers such as type I, II, and III collagens, alkaline phosphatase, or osteopontin. However, after attachment, S cells became immunopositive for collagens I, II, III, osteopontin, and also for the cell surface receptor CD44, which mediates cell attachment to hyaluronan and osteopontin. These studies show that viable osteogenic precursor cells with the stem cell characteristics of self-renewal, high proliferative capacity, and multipotentiality can be enriched from heterogeneous stromal cell populations with simple flow cytometric methods. These cells may be useful for regeneration of stromal tissues.

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