Stem cell aging: survival of the laziest?

Cell Cycle. 2008 Dec 15;7(24):3798-804. doi: 10.4161/cc.7.24.7214. Epub 2008 Dec 16.


The question whether stem cells age remains an enigma. Traditionally, aging was thought to change the properties of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). We discuss here a new model of stem cell aging that challenges this view. It is now well-established that the HSC compartment is heterogeneous, consisting of epigenetically fixed subpopulations of HSC that differ in self-renewal and differentiation capacity. New data show that the representation of these HSC subsets changes during aging. HSC that generate lymphocyte-rich progeny are depleted, while myeloid-biased HSC are enriched in the aged HSC compartment. Myeloid-biased HSC, even when isolated from young donors, have most of the characteristics that had been attributed to aged HSC. Thus, the distinct behavior of the HSC isolated from aged hosts is due to the accumulation of myeloid-biased HSC. By extension this means that the properties of individual HSC are not substantially changed during the lifespan of the organism and that aged hosts do not contain many aged HSC. Myeloid-biased HSC give rise to mature cells slowly but contribute for a long time to peripheral hematopoiesis. We propose that such slow, "lazy" HSC are less likely to be transformed and therefore may safely sustain hematopoiesis for a long time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cellular Senescence*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological


  • Cytokines