Previous studies have indicated that MD-fraction (MDF), in which the active component is beta 1,6-glucan with beta 1,3-branches, has anti-tumor activity as an oral agent and acts as an immune adjuvant. Since some other beta glucans appear to promote mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells, the effects of a beta glucan extract from the Maitake mushroom "MD-fraction" on hematopoietic stem cells were examined in a colony forming assay. Here we report for the first time that MDF has a dose response effect on mouse bone marrow cells (BMC) hematopoiesis in vitro. Using the Colony Forming Unit (CFU) assay to detect formation of granulocyte-macrophage (CFU-GM) colonies, and the XTT cytotoxicitiy assay to measure BMC viability, the data showed that the addition of MDF significantly enhanced the development of CFU-GM in a dose range of 50-100 microg/ml (p<0.004). The mechanism of action included significant increase of nonadherent BMC viability, which was observed at MDF doses of 12.5-100 microg/ml (p<0.005). In the presence of Doxorubicin (DOX), MDF promoted BMC viability and protected CFU-GM from DOX induced toxicity. In addition, MDF treatment promoted the recovery of CFU-GM colony formation after BMC were pretreated with DOX. These studies provided the first evidence that MDF acts directly in a dose dependent manner on hematopoietic BMC and enhances BMC growth and differentiation into colony forming cells.