Hematopoiesis is established from circulating blood stem cells that seed the embryonic rudiments of blood-forming tissues, a basic notion in developmental hematology. However, the assumption that these stem cells originate from the extraembryonic mesoderm, where primitive hematopoiesis is initiated by intrinsic precursors, has been reconsidered after analysis of blood cell development in avian embryo chimeras: yolk-sac-derived stem cells do not contribute significantly to the definitive blood system, whose first forerunners develop independently along the ventral aspect of the embryonic aorta. Recently, the homologous intraembryonic tissues of the mouse have been submitted to sensitive in vivo and in vitro assays, which showed that they also harbor multipotential hematopoietic stem cells. We have now identified a dense population of hematogenous cells, marked by the surface expression of the CD34 glycoprotein, associated with the ventral endothelium of the aorta in the 5-week human embryo. Therefore, we extend to the human species the growing evidence that intraembryonic hematopoietic cells developing independently of the yolk sac might be the real stem of the whole blood system.

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