A three-dimensional in vitro model of erythropoiesis recapitulates erythroid failure in myelodysplastic syndromes

Leukemia. 2020 Jan;34(1):271-282. doi: 10.1038/s41375-019-0532-7. Epub 2019 Aug 2.


Established cell culture systems have failed to accurately recapitulate key features of terminal erythroid maturation, hampering our ability to in vitro model and treat diseases with impaired erythropoiesis such as myelodysplastic syndromes with ring sideroblasts (MDS-RS). We developed an efficient and robust three-dimensional (3D) scaffold culture model supporting terminal erythroid differentiation from both mononuclear (MNC) or CD34+-enriched primary bone marrow cells from healthy donors and MDS-RS patients. While CD34+ cells did not proliferate beyond two weeks in 2D suspension cultures, the 3D scaffolds supported CD34+ and MNC erythroid proliferation over four weeks demonstrating the importance of the 3D environment. CD34+ cells cultured in 3D facilitated the highest expansion and maturation of erythroid cells, including generation of erythroblastic islands and enucleated erythrocytes, while MNCs supported multi-lineage hemopoietic differentiation and cytokine secretion relevant for MDS-RS. Importantly, MDS-RS 3D-cultures supported de novo generation of ring sideroblasts and maintenance of the mutated clone. The 3D cultures effectively model a clonal disease characterized by terminal erythroid failure and can be used to assess therapeutic compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD34
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Erythroid Precursor Cells / cytology
  • Erythropoiesis*
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes*


  • Antigens, CD34