Blood and immune cells derive from multipotent hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Classically, stem and progenitor populations have been considered discrete homogeneous populations. However, recent technological advances have revealed significant HSC heterogeneity, with evidence for early HSC lineage segregation and the presence of lineage-biased HSCs and lineage-restricted progenitors within the HSC compartment. These and other findings challenge many aspects of the classical view of HSC biology. We review the most recent findings regarding the causes and consequences of HSC heterogeneity, discuss their far-reaching implications, and suggest that so-called continuum-based models may help consolidate apparently divergent experimental observations in this field.
Keywords: differentiation; epigenetics; hematopoiesis; hematopoietic hierarchy; leukemogenesis; lineage tracing; single cell gene expression; single cell transplantation; stem cell clonality; stem cell heterogeneity.
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