Chronological human aging is associated with a number of changes in the hematopoietic system, occurring at many levels from stem to mature cells, and the marrow microenvironment as well. This review will focus mainly on the aging of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), and on the associated increases in the incidence of hematological malignancies. HSPCs manifest reduced function and acquire molecular changes with chronological aging. Furthermore, while for many years it has been known that the human hematopoietic system becomes increasingly clonal with chronological aging (clonal hematopoiesis), only in the last few years has it become clear that clonal hematopoiesis may result from the accumulation of preleukemic mutations in HSPCs. Such mutations confer a selective advantage that leads to clonal hematopoiesis, and that may occasionally result in the development of leukemia, and define the existence of both preleukemic stem cells, and of 'preleukemia' as a clinical entity. While it is well appreciated that clonal hematopoiesis is very common in the elderly, several questions remain unanswered: why and how does clonal hematopoiesis develop? How is clonal hematopoiesis related to the age-related changes observed in the hematopoietic system? And why do only some individuals with clonal hematopoiesis develop leukemia?
Keywords: Aging; Clonal hematopoeisis; Preleukemia.