Purpose of review: Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) predominantly reside either in direct contact or in close proximity to the vascular endothelium throughout their lifespan. From the moment of HSC embryonic specification from hemogenic endothelium, endothelial cells (ECs) act as a critical cellular-hub that regulates a vast repertoire of biological processes crucial for HSC maintenance throughout its lifespan. In this review, we will discuss recent findings in endothelial niche-mediated regulation of HSC function during development, aging and regenerative conditions.
Recent findings: Studies employing genetic vascular models have unequivocally confirmed that ECs provide the essential instructive cues for HSC emergence during embryonic development as well as adult HSC maintenance during homeostasis and regeneration. Aging of ECs may impair their ability to maintain HSC function contributing to the development of aging-associated hematopoietic deficiencies. These findings have opened up new avenues to explore the therapeutic application of ECs. ECs can be adapted to serve as an instructive platform to expand bona fide HSCs and also utilized as a cellular therapy to promote regeneration of the hematopoietic system following myelosuppressive and myeloablative injuries.
Summary: ECs provide a fertile niche for maintenance of functional HSCs throughout their lifecycle. An improved understanding of the EC-HSC cross-talk will pave the way for development of EC-directed strategies for improving HSC function during aging.