Delayed neutrophil and platelet engraftment is a significant issue of cord blood (CB) transplantation. Ex vivo expansion of CB hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC) before infusion has been shown to accelerate hematopoietic recovery in patients. Recently, we reported that serum free medium (SFM) conditioned with osteoblasts derived from human bone marrow (BM) mesenchymal stromal cells, referred as M-OST CM, was superior to SFM or MSC CM for the expansion of CB CD34+ cells, and that HSPC expanded in M-OST CM provided better platelet engraftment. Since large number of expanded cells were transplanted in the original study, it was not possible to estimate the increased expansion of HSPC with short-term (ST) and long-term (LT) thrombopoietic and BM engraftment activities. The objectives herein were to investigate these shortcomings using limit dilution analysis (LDA) in transplantation assay and to investigate the cellular mechanisms at play.

M-OST CM was prepared by conditioning SFM with immature M-OST overnight. CB CD34+ cells were expanded in M-OST CM or in SFM (defined as control) for 7 days with SCF, FL and TPO. CB cell expansion was significantly greater in M-OST CM cultures vs. SFM control (2.4 ±0.9 fold, mean ± SD, n=4, p=0.01). LDA transplantation assays were done by infusing the progeny of 500-8000 CD34+ cells in NSG mice. First, we compared the ST (< 31 days) and LT (˃ 100 days) thrombopoietic activities of expanded HSPC by measuring circulating human platelets (hPLT). The threshold for hPLT engraftment was set above the mean background level measured in control mice + 1SD. The median ST levels of hPLT in M-OST mice tended to be greater (2.5-fold, p˃0.05) in M-OST recipients (21 mice/condition, n=2). The frequency of ST hPLT HSPC estimated by LDA was 3.4 ±0.2 fold higher in M-OST CM cultures though the difference vs. control was not significant (p=0.11). LT hPLT levels were significantly greater in M-OST recipients (median 33 vs. 8 hPLT/uL blood, p=0.0027). Consistent with this, the frequency of HSPC with LT hPLT engraftment was increased in M-OST CM cultures (3.5±0.8 fold, p<0.04). Considering the differences in cell expansion, the net expansion of HSPC with ST and LT hPLT engraftment were raised by 5.5 ±1.7 and 6.0 ±3.4 fold in M-OST CM cultures vs. control (n=2). Next, LT human BM engraftment was analyzed at week 16. Preliminary results (13 mice/condition) suggest that the frequency of LT Scid repopulating cells (SRC) was increased by 27% in the M-OST CM culture vs. SFM control (frequency of 1/2878 vs. 1/3626 of day 0 starting cell).

Next, we set to determine how M-OST CM increases the thrombopoietic activity of expanded CB HSPC. First, cytometry analysis (CD34, CD38, CD45RA, CD90 and CD123) revealed that M-OST CM preferentially increased the expansion of common myeloid progenitors (CMP, 8-fold, p=0.2, n=3), megakaryocyte-erythroid progenitors (MEP, 7-fold, p=0.02) and granulocyte-macrophage progenitors (GMP, 9-fold, p=0.02) vs. SFM control. Expansion of HSC-enriched cells was unchanged while that of multipotent progenitors (MPP) was reduced 2-fold (p<0.05). We set to confirm these results by culturing purified primary CB HSPC subsets in M-OST CM or SFM; M-OST CM induced greater expansions of MEP (3-fold), GMP (˃10-fold) while expansion in MPP cultures was greater with SFM control (1.5-fold). No growth was noted with the HSC and CMP cultures likely due to low sort yields.

To complement these findings, we measured the expansion of myeloid CFU progenitors and long term culture-initiating cells (LTC-IC) by LDA. The total number of CFU was increased 2.4-fold (<0.02, n=4) by M-OST CM due mostly to increased expansion of CFU-G/GM colonies (2-fold, p<0.05) and BFU-E (2-fold, p=0.05). M-OST CM also sustained a 3.4-fold increase in LTC-IC expansion vs. SFM culture, though this finding remains to be confirmed in ongoing experiments.

Finally, we investigated the effect of M-OST CM on the chemotaxis of HSPC toward SDF-1 since we previously reported increased expression of its receptor CXCR4 on CB cells in M-OST CM cultures. M-OST CM HSPC showed a modest 15% increase in migration vs. SFM control (n=4, p=0.10).

In conclusion, our results demonstrate that the ST and LT hPLT engraftment activities of ex vivo expanded CB HSPC can be increased 5-6 folds by the use of M-OST CM due to the expansion of immature CB HSPC subsets including perhaps LT SRC. Whether M-OST CM can also modulate the homing activity of HSPC remains unclear.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.