A research team led by scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research have discovered the location in mice where hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) reside, often called the HSCs microenvironment or "niche." The team also identified mechanisms involved in controlling the size of the niche and the number of adult HSCs the body produces. This research has solved the puzzle of the hematopoietic stem cell niche first articulated more than 25 years ago and has defined its essential features in both cellular and molecular terms.
The findings are reported in the Oct. 23 issue of Nature.
HSCs are a population of bone marrow cells capable of self-renewal and production of all types of blood cells. Normally these cells cannot function properly outside their exclusive niche. According to Stowers Institute Assistant Investigator Linheng Li, Ph.D., who led the study, the niche not only provides a home for the HSCs but also regulates their numbers. Gaining greater understanding of the stem cells niche and its regulatory signals is an important advance toward the goal of using stem cells for therapeutic purposes.
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